If you smoke cigarettes, you have likely grown used to the negative reactions from family and friends who want you to quit smoking. However, you may not be expecting such negativity when you appear in family court to litigate your child custody case.
According to a recent survey, family court judges in at least 18 states have ruled that a parent's smoking habits, and specifically the likelihood that the child will be exposed to secondhand smoke, is a factor that must be considered when making child custody rulings. In addition, the survey, which was conducted by an anti-tobacco advocacy group, found that no family court has ever said that secondhand smoke exposure should not be considered as a factor in child custody decisions.
It is likely that this trend will only continue in the coming years. According to one family court judge, that is how it should be. "A family court that does not issue court orders restraining persons from smoking in the presence of children," he wrote in a law review article, "fails those children whom the law has entrusted to its care."
Many parents have argued against the trend, claiming that for being punished for engaging in a lawful activity. However, due to the volume of scientific evidence on the dangers of second-hand smoke for children, and because courts will generally choose to over-protect rather than under-protect, parents who smoke cigarettes should consider the possible impact when seeking child custody.
If you smoke, you should be prepared to assent to orders such as never smoking in the car when your child is in the vehicle, or not smoking in the house for a set number of hours before the child's arrival.
Source: The Washington Times, "Smokers losing child custody cases a growing trend," Myra Fleischer, Feb. 22, 2012