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Will smoking stack the odds against you in a child custody case?

Although the state of Nevada and the Las Vegas area in particular are more tolerant of smoking than other places in the U.S., its family courts may not be. That’s the trend anyway, as evidenced by a recent survey of child custody cases involving tobacco use conducted by the anti-tobacco advocacy group Action on Smoking and Health.

The study suggests that an increasing number of family courts nationwide are using smoking as a factor when making child custody decisions. Currently, courts in 18 states have ruled that subjecting children to secondhand smoke should be considered as a factor in custody cases. Equally important is the fact that this survey found no ruling in any state where a judge said that subjecting a child to secondhand smoke should be ignored.

In Nevada, courts consider several factors when addressing the question of child custody, including the preferences of older children, the mental and physical health of the parents, and the physical, developmental and emotional needs of the children. In a child custody dispute, all three of these factors (and possibly others) could work against parents who still smoke.

Does this mean that smokers can’t win full custody or even joint custody? Not necessarily, but if you still smoke, have minor children and are planning to get a divorce — you may want to consider kicking the habit. Unfortunately, quitting smoking may not be the easiest thing to do in the midst of a divorce.

At the very least, if you can’t quit, you will want to make certain that neither you nor anyone else exposes your children to cigarette smoke from this point forward. That means no smoking in your house or your car when your children are present. Some courts have even issued orders that prohibited smoking in a home up to 48 hours prior to the children’s arrival.

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

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