Going through a divorce is one of the most challenging events in a lot of people's lives. But when children are involved, things can get complicated, and incredibly contentious. Sit in on a case in any courthouse in New Jersey on any day, and you'll witness shameless mudslinging from both sides. Each child custody case has its own unique dynamics, but a relatively new topic has been consistently rearing its head in custody discussions: the use of medical marijuana.
Traditionally, accusations involving a parent's use of marijuana haven't had a huge influence on the ultimate outcome. That is unless a parent used marijuana in the presence of a minor child, or if they were negligent in preventing their children from accessing the substance - let's say a child accidentally found your “stash.” But now, things have changed drastically due to the legalization of medical marijuana in New Jersey.
In 2010, New Jersey enacted a law that allows state residents to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. It is the 19th state to enact this law, and the second state after Arizona to permit doctors to actually prescribe marijuana if needed. As you would expect, the law has been wildly controversial, but what's most interesting is how child custody judges are factoring in medicinal use on behalf of one or both parents.
Courts will not choose to strip a parent's custody of their child unless they are deemed as “unfit.” New Jersey defines an unfit parent as one who conducts themselves in a way that “has a substantial adverse effect on the child.” This definition is vague, which means that judges will have their own interpretation of what being fit entails. Because discretion falls solely in the hands of a judge, these cases are unpredictable.
In cases involving medical marijuana, the opposing party of a parent with a medical marijuana card would need to prove either that the parent is so sick that they can't properly provide for the child, or that the parent is can't manage their medical marijuana, making them untrustworthy or irresponsible. Although the well-being of a child is prioritized in these cases, prescribed marijuana should be considered no different than any other type of prescribed medication. But as aforementioned, the scope of fitness will ultimately be decided by a judge.
If you are a legal, responsible user of medical marijuana for a condition you have and you believe that your spouse will use your prescription against you in a custody hearing, you need legal representation.
New Jersey Family Law Attorney
With all the things to consider in a child custody case, predicting an outcome in a hearing is pretty difficult. This is why it's important you retain a qualified family law attorney who has extensive knowledge of the state's process and has helped families get an arrangement that reflects the best interest of their child. To ensure your parental rights are protected, and your contributions are considered, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.