In January 2018, the use of recreational marijuana for adults (21 and older) in the state of California became legal. However, there are still significant limitations that are especially relevant to the crucial issues of child custody.
When California voters decided to legalize adult use of marijuana, first medial use and now recreationally, it certainly didn't intend to give cannabis users free reign from being held responsible from the effects of its use.
However, generally, California family courts now treat the use of marijuana by a parent in similar fashion to alcohol, such as:
- it is legal to use, but not excessively;
- do not use marijuana in the presence of your children;
- do not be under the influence around your kids;
- do not drive a vehicle while under the influence;
- do not use not marijuana 8 hours prior to visiting your children.
It should also be noted that in some cases where marijuana use by a parent lead to improper conduct impacting their child, they could order them not to use marijuana.
In California child custody cases where heavy use of marijuana is alleged by one parent, the family court could order drug tests.
These will reveal residual THC levels, which will be used by the court and experts to decide whether their marijuana use could affect their parenting skills.
To give readers some more information about the use of marijuana and how it's related to child custody, our Los Angeles divorce lawyers are providing a review below.
Common Principle Used by California Family Court Judges
There are many bitterly contested child custody cases in California. Most family court judges will use the same principle regarding the use of alcohol or marijuana by a parent:
There are times when you have to decide whether to use a substance or put the best interest of your children first.
Put simply, sometimes you need to make a choice over arguing about whether it's appropriate to use marijuana, or putting your primary focus on your children's well-being and taking the distractions of marijuana use away.
It's important for your family law attorney to be familiar with how their local courts and judges normally handle allegations of parental marijuana use.
Your lawyer should provide you with a list of steps to take in order to ensure your children are safe in the eyes of the court if you are a marijuana user.
In reality, your case could end up in front of a family law judge who believes marijuana use is not a major issue, or a judge who strongly believes it puts your children in danger in spite of its legality.
Marijuana Use Can Complicate Child Custody Matters
Child custody cases are already one of the most difficult issues a parent will endure during the California divorce process.
Even though adult marijuana use is now legal, there is still a very negative reputation in family courts about how it potentially impacts a parent's ability to put the best interest of their child first.
In other words, when a parent is a habitual marijuana user, it will normally:
- complicate the child custody case process, and
- even cause termination of parental rights in severe cases.
This will hold especially true if one parent makes a decision to use the other parent's marijuana use against them in order to be awarded child custody.
It should be noted that a parent who is a marijuana user will not automatically lose their child custody rights.
Family courts recognize the issue of marijuana use has evolved over the past decade.
Many judges understand that reasonable cannabis use by a parent will not normally impact the child's well-being, similar to having a small drink of alcohol.
However, a parent who doesn't use marijuana will still normally be favored over the parent who uses, which can make a difference in the final child custody decision.
Medical Marijuana and Child Custody
Medical marijuana became legal in California in 1996. Residents are allowed to grow marijuana plants and possess the drug for personal as long as they obtain a prescription from a doctor.
However, although medical marijuana may be legal, it does not mean parents won't face any child custody and visitation disputes.
Federal marijuana laws
Under federal law, marijuana is still an illegal Schedule 1 drug, which means it possible for someone to face legal hurdles for growing or using medical marijuana.
However, in reality, the federal law enforcement will not typically get involved unless it deals with large-scale marijuana dealers.
Regardless, medical marijuana is illegal under federal law and issues of child custody and marijuana remain unclear.
California family courts normally make custody decisions on an individual case-by-case basis, and ALWAYS in the child's best interest. The most crucial factors include:
- parent's mental and financial ability to take care of their child;
- strength of relationship between child and parent;
- history of drug abuse or domestic violence;
- child's close connection to their home and school;
- child's age and health.
When family court judges are evaluating medical marijuana use by a parent, they are looking for any history of substance abuse and their ability to care for the child in a safe environment.
Clearly, if a parent follows the instructions of their doctor in using medical marijuana, and it doesn't negatively affect the child's well-being, then most judges won't prevent them from having custody or visitation with their child.
However, it's important note, that the child custody decision is entirely at the discretion of the judge.
Tips for Parents Who Use Marijuana
There are some common sense guidelines to follow if you are a parent who decides to continue using cannabis:
- don't use marijuana in from on your children;
- don't drive a vehicle while using marijuana;
- marijuana should be kept out of sight and reach of children;
- never use marijuana excessively that you can't care for your kids;
Obviously, if you are using marijuana to the extent it impacts your ability to put your children first, then you need to reevaluate why you are still using it.
Family Law Lawyers for California Child Custody Matters
If you are in a situation where you need to fight for child custody, then you will need to show the family law court that you are a competent parent.
If you are a parent attempting to keep your children in a safe environment away from a parent who excessively uses marijuana, we can help you.
Our experienced family law lawyers understand the safety and well-being of your children is a top priority.
We need to review the details of your case in order to determine an appropriate strategy.
Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys who represent people throughout all Southern California courtrooms.
Our firm is located in the San Fernando Valley at 15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436.
Contact our law firm for a free case consultation at (818) 528-3471.