Recently, Melissa Etheridge’s custody battle with her former partner Tammy Lynn Michaels made the news after Ms. Michaels requested significantly more money in child support payments. One of the details of the battle that emerged was Ms. Michaels’ smoking habit, and the allegation that one of the children was evidently burned by a cigarette (presumably on accident).
Nevertheless, the case brings up an important point about smoking and family courts: gone are the days when smoking was common and accepted. Family law courts increasingly scrutinize parents who smoke and expose their children to second-hand smoke.
In fact, courts often issue orders specifically requiring parents not smoke around their children, nor can the parents let anyone else smoke around the children. In extreme cases, judges have ordered that the parent not smoke for a full day in the house or car prior to the child’s arrival. One Georgia woman even saw her custody revoked after the child developed asthma due to her smoking. The court claimed it was evidence that she did not care enough about the child to continue custody.
While you may think this is a bit heavy-handed, keep in mind that one of the court’s primary concerns is the safety of the child. Courts generally do not wish to be involved in custody arrangements; they’d rather the two parents work out an amicable agreement. But, if you get the court involved, you’re going to have to play by the court’s rules. Currently, 300,000 children annually develop some type of lung or bronchial infection caused by smoke exposure. 1 in 20 of these require hospitalization. When the court considers the best interests of the child in custody, the court is going to view more favorably the parent who isn’t exposing the child to a potential health risk.
Of course, smoking is not an easy habit to quit. You’ve heard of the benefits of quitting, and no one is recommending that you continue smoking. It’s obviously unhealthy and expensive, but now it could affect your child visitation and custody rights. If you are going through a divorce with children involved, or if you are going through a custody battle, contact an Atlantic Beach Child Custody Attorney to discuss what actions you should take.