Child Custody and Smoking: Smokers Lose Again

Cigarette smoking can affect a child custody dispute because courts increasingly favor the nonsmoking parent. In some cases – such as those where a child suffers respiratory difficulties from, for example, asthma – courts have said that smoking constitutes child abuse.

It’s no secret that tobacco foes have made cigarette smoking the target of ever increasing anti-smoking measures. Now tobacco foes’ targets “range from truly dangerous parents who have smoked around children with asthma resulting in multiple emergency-room visits due to life threatening smoke induced attacks, to those who merely allow a family member to smoke in the presence of a healthy child,” according to one source.

According to reports, courts have:

  • granted custody to a nonsmoking parent, and “in some cases where both parents smoke, custody has been granted to a non-smoking relative or third party.”
  • required a smoking parent to smoke in one room “or outside, and have made arrangements to periodically check up on parents to ensure compliance.”
  • prohibited smoking inside a vehicle.

Significantly, the courts now consider the smoking of others who may come in contact with the child as a result of a subsequent marriage, such as a stepparent. Moreover, courts view parents who try to quit, or who stop smoking only after smoking becomes an issue, skeptically because the smokers are “only quitting to gain custody and will resume smoking once their case is settled.”

Parents who enter the court as nonsmokers have a better chance of avoiding smoking as an issue.

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