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Marijuana use can affect custody

Colorado was one of the first states in the country to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 years old and up when voters passed Colorado Amendment 64 in 2012. Marijuana advocates have trumpeted the many positives of legalizing and using pot. However, Coloradans still should be sensible if they are parents who plan to divorce. There are a number of important issues those who enjoy cannabis must consider if they wish to seek equal parenting time scheduled and share joint decision making responsibility. 

The best interests of the child

The courts always start any allocation of parental responsibilities discussions by trying to determine what is in the “best interests of the child” when considering a parenting plan. Of course, this applies to every aspect of a parent’s life, ranging from a parent’s health, work schedule and anything involving the parent-child relationship. If one parent uses marijuana, the other may argue that frequent marijuana use (like frequent social alcohol use or use bordering on excessive consumption, let alone abuse of alcohol) is not good parenting.

Taking it a step further

A parent may go so far as to accuse the other parent who uses marijuana as endangering the child or say it is abusive behavior to subject a child to secondhand marijuana smoke in the home. They may also argue that marijuana edibles look like candy that a child may eat, subsequently leading to a trip to the emergency room to get their stomach pumped. These are some of the scenarios that could play out during court or negotiating a parenting time schedule.

It’s also important to remember that the standards relied upon by the court in a Dissolution of Marriage or Allocation of Parental Responsibilities case is much different than that of a criminal case or other civil matters. A few anecdotal episodes or a call to child protective services may be all it takes to cause a court to question whether an equal parenting time scheduled or joint decision making is truly in the best interest of the child. Children, especially infants and toddlers, have a right to be parented by a person who is fully engaged, alert, aware and able to respond in the event of an emergency. However, even more significant is the child’s right to obtain a response when he/she interacts with a caretaking parent.  A parent who excessively uses drugs or alcohol is not accessible.

Keeping priorities in order

There is a difference between use and abuse, but parents would be advised to err on the side of caution. They have a right to defend themselves and their way of life, but the priority should be fulfilling their role as the best parent they can be. Those with questions should contact a knowledgeable family law attorney here in Colorado to discuss the implication of marijuana use and other matters involving child custody and divorce.

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