Judy A. Oxford, Attorney at Law
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Parents who smoke may be at a disadvantage in custody cases

While the rates of adult smoking have decreased dramatically in the last few decades, many people in Tennessee still smoke: about 25 percent, in fact, which is among the highest rates in the country. While most if not all people these days understand that smoking is a direct risk to their health and an indirect risk to the health of those around them, what they might not realize is that smoking can have an impact on a child custody case.

In several states, family law courts have ruled that it should be held as a factor in the decision if one of the parents is a smoker. This could even extend to grandparents, friends or other people who would frequently interact with children if they are smokers. Courts have also ordered parents to stop smoking in their homes and cars around the children in their custody -- or even smoking in those places for one or two days before the children would arrive.

While the dangers of smoking were not fully understood in previous decades, it is pretty clear these days that if a child has a respiratory problem or allergies, parents should not smoke in the home, if at all. Judges can and do take these situations into account when determining custody arrangements.

Some wonder what can be done for parents who are smokers. They may quit, or offer to quit, but because smoking is a notoriously difficult habit to quit, some judges may not be convinced that the lifestyle change is a permanent one.

Source: The Washington Times, "Smokers losing child custody cases a growing trend," Myra Fleischer, Feb. 21, 2012

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