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Smoking may hurt your child custody case

Do you smoke cigarettes? Rhode Island smokers probably already know about the various risks associated with this bad habit. However, did you know that as a smoker, you may have a greater chance of losing your kids in a child custody dispute?

A recent article explains that states are increasingly factoring in parents' cigarette smoking habits into child custody decisions. The group Action on Smoking and Health surveyed custody issues involving tobacco use. The agency made the following national findings:

  • In at least 18 states, courts have ruled that subjecting a child to tobacco smoke is a factor that should be considered in deciding custody.
  • Many courts have mandated that parents do not smoke in the presence of a child.
  • Existing court orders can often be changed if a child is exposed to tobacco smoke.

These are just some of the findings. The resistance against smokers' custody and visitation rights is a growing trend. For example, a New York judge ordered a woman to stop smoking in her home and car if she wanted to maintain her visitation rights with her son.

Sources explain that secondhand smoke's effects are a legitimate concern. Courts are sensitive to this, especially if a child already suffers from respiratory problems.

According to reports, many parents are quitting this habit prior to their custody case. However, Judges are skeptical about whether a parent might start smoking again once the case is over. Therefore, if you are a smoker, the article suggests smoking outdoors and not allowing others to smoke in the presence of your children. These factors may help your case.

Smoking is just one consideration a judge may make in your custody battle. For this reason, you may want to speak to a well-informed attorney about your case. He or she can inform you about the various factors judges consider in evaluating your fitness as a parent.

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

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