Does Legal Marijuana Use Affect Child Custody in New York?

Long Island divorce lawyers advise on the “best interests of the child” standard

As laws governing recreational cannabis consumption have eased, many New York parents are asking: “Does legal marijuana use impact child custody?” The answer to this question depends on the specific circumstances, so if you have questions about a co-parent who frequently uses cannabis, it’s best to seek personalized guidance from a seasoned family law attorney. At Bryan L. Salamone and Associates, P.C., we are Long Island’s divorce leader and can analyze the facts in your case to assess whether marijuana use might be relevant to a judge evaluating custody and visitation arrangements.

What rights do parents have to use cannabis in New York?

New York permits recreational marijuana use for residents 21 and over in places where tobacco smoking is allowed. However, cannabis is still a highly regulated substance, and violating the law could result in consequences that affect child custody arrangements. The unauthorized sale of marijuana or possession of an amount that exceeds what is typically associated with personal use (3 ounces of bud or 24 ounces of concentrated cannabis) is a crime. Medical marijuana was legalized for New Yorkers with a doctor’s prescription in 2014, but there could be questions about whether a parent who required cannabis to treat a medical condition is fully capable of meeting a child’s needs without assistance.

How does marijuana use affect child custody in New York?

Under the current law in New York, the mere fact that your co-parent uses marijuana is likely not relevant in a child custody dispute. Rather, the focus should be on the consequences linked to their drug use and how they could directly affect your child. If your ex consumes marijuana in front of your child or frequently loses control of their behavior due to their habit, that could be setting a bad example or might even put your child in danger. Circumstances that could cause a judge to alter a parenting plan due to cannabis-related issues include the following:

  • Parent is impaired while supervising their child
  • Child has access to their parent’s cannabis
  • Parent is engaging in illegal activity, such as unauthorized sale of marijuana
  • Drug use is leading the parent to miss visits or fall short in other parenting responsibilities

Our firm has a thorough understanding of New York’s Domestic Relations Law and the legal precedents that shape custody cases. You can count on us for honest insight regarding the potential effect of your co-parent’s marijuana use on your parenting arrangements.

Proving your ex is abusing cannabis in New York

Witness accounts, emails and texts might demonstrate that marijuana is interfering with a mother or father’s ability to fulfill their parental duties. When warranted, we collect evidence and utilize experts to make a case for a parenting plan that acknowledges a mother or father’s drug problem. In severe cases, police records, drug test results and reports from Child Protective Services (CPS) could show that a cannabis-using parent lacks the responsibility to supervise their son or daughter.

Alerting CPS regarding parental cannabis use

Should your former partner’s drug-related activity be so dangerous that terminating parental rights might be appropriate, you should notify CPS in addition to pursuing sole custody. It is important to remember that revoking legal parentage is a severe step and CPS is much more likely to require an intermediate remedy following their evaluation. Many people can resolve their addiction problems by going to drug abuse rehabilitation. This might be mandated in order for a parent to retain their custody rights. If a mother or father’s marijuana use presents a potential danger, supervised visits could be ordered so that a responsible adult is present at all times.

Contact an experienced Long Island child custody lawyer

Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. provides comprehensive counsel to Long Island residents on child custody and visitation issues, including situations where a co-parent is a frequent marijuana user. Please call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online to discuss your concerns with a knowledgeable New York family attorney.