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Smoking as a Factor in Child Custody Cases

The trend in society to discourage smoking keeps gaining momentum. It isn't only that many buildings must now be smoke-free, or that revenue-hungry state governments keep raising cigarette taxes. The latest potential consequence of being a smoker is that it can be a negative factor in child custody disputes.

If you smoke around your child, it could mean that you are less likely to get full or even joint custody. Conversely, if you don't smoke but your spouse does, it could mean you are more likely to get custody.

According to a national survey conducted by a group called Action on Smoking and Health, 18 states have already determined that exposing a child to tobacco smoke is a relevant factor when courts must decide who gets custody.

Numerous courts have also issued specific orders prohibiting a parent from smoking in a child's presence. Many of these orders involve motor vehicles, where the enclosed space makes second-hand smoke an especially serious concern.

In some cases, a child custody or visitation rights arrangement may include a provision that orders a parent to stop smoking in a home from 24 to 48 hours before the child gets there.

The survey by Action on Smoking and Health found that violation of such orders can be grounds for the modification of a child custody agreement. Parents can conceivably even lose custody or have visitation curtailed if the court finds they have subjected a child to too much smoke.

Civil liberties advocates are concerned that courts in these cases are intruding on personal decisions. But the trend is clear.

Source: "Smokers losing child custody cases a growing trend," Washington Times, 2-21-12

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