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Marijuana and child custody in Pennsylvania: Is use a factor?

Marijuana use is currently a hot topic in the United States. Though Pennsylvania has not yet followed suit, a number of states have approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. One western state recently approved use of the drug for both medicinal and non-medicinal use. That action has prompted some to question how passage of the Amendment will affect child custody litigation within the state.

Disputes over child custody and visitation are often elevated when allegations of drug use arise. But how do courts handle these issues if the law in their state permits use of marijuana? There are some indications that complaints concerning the misuse of marijuana in custody situations have become more frequent after pot was approved for medical and recreational use.

Those involved in child custody matters in Colorado, where the Amendment legalizing marijuana passed last November, do not expect the approach taken by judges presiding over these disputes to change significantly. In fact, one observer drew a comparison to alcohol consumption and prescription pill abuse. Courts are typically charged with deciding child custody matters in terms of the best interests of the children involved. To the extent that any behavior is documented that adversely affects a parent's responsibilities regarding the health and care of their children, a judge could well remove or limit custody for that individual.

Each child custody dispute is different, and that is as true in Pennsylvania as it is in any other jurisdiction. The best first step for parents unable to resolve custody and visitation issues among themselves is to seek objective advice about the available options for ensuring that the best interests of the child are placed first. When parents cannot agree, a court typically steps in and makes the decision for them. Where one party is abusing drugs or alcohol, there is an inevitable risk that a court may determine it is preferable for the children to have limited exposure to the parent fighting those issues.

Source: TheDenverChannel.com, "No laws governing marijuana consumption in child custody cases," Ryan Budnick, Feb. 27, 2013

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