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Should you lose custody for smoking around your children?

Should child custody be denied to a parent who smokes around his or her children? That was one of the topics tackled recently at the annual International Society for Family Law's North American Regional Conference.

Family law attorneys and law professors heard from a public interest law professor known for taking on the tobacco industry. He told attendees that the issue of whether a parent smokes should be brought up in child custody proceedings.

If a parent seeking any type of custody or visitation rights smokes, he argued, that parent should be required to abstain from smoking in their home for at least two days before the child will be there. Several cases were discussed in which parents who smoked lost custody because they did not refrain from doing so around their children.

While such proposals may be controversial, second-hand smoke is a serious health issue, particularly for children, who can suffer from any number of ailments due to parental smoking. The conference attendees were told that over 6,000 kids in the U.S. die annually because their parents smoke around them. Further, "More young children are killed by parental smoking than by all unintentional injuries combined."

The professor compared the responsibilities of family law attorneys to help prevent the serious health risks of parental smoking to children with those of emergency room physicians. He said that family law attorneys "can and should be using the great power of law to right serious wrongs being done to children."

The professor used Massachusetts law as an example of strict reporting requirements for physicians. He noted that medical personnel in our state are required to report cases of suspected child abuse for "all but the most negligible...injuries to children."

If you have concerns that your spouse is smoking around your children or allowing others to, it's a valid issue to bring up in custody negotiations. If you're on the other side of the situation and your spouse is trying to deny or limit custody or visitation due to your smoking, it's essential that you work to ensure that this does not affect your ability to see your children.

This may mean complying with strict requirements that, after all, are for your kids' benefit. Family law attorneys are there to help protect your rights as well as keep the focus on what's in the best interests of your children.

Source: ValueWalk, "Smokers Should Lose Child Custody – Intl Family Law Conf," accessed June 09, 2016

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