Marylanders voted that beginning July 1, 2023, adults 21 and older may possess, smoke, and grow cannabis (with some limitations).
For many divorcing couples, the question looms – how might legalizing marijuana impact your custody case?
Maryland Judges determine custody based on the best interest of the child. To determine a child’s best interest, they must examine a list 16 of statutory factors. In a number of the factors, a parent’s use of recreational drugs can come into play, including:
- Factor 1: The “[s]tability and foreseeable health and welfare of the child”;
- Factor 7: “The day-to-day needs of the child, including, education, socialization, culture and religion, food, shelter, clothing, and mental and physical health”
- Factor 8: “How to place the child’s needs above the parties’ needs.”
- Factor 9: The “[a]ge of the child”
- Factor 12: “Each party’s role and tasks related to the child and how, if at all, those roles and tasks have changed”
- Factor 16: “Any other factor deemed appropriate by the parties.”
How much weight and how to interpret each of the factors is within the discretion of the judge.
Before and After the Vote to Legalize Marijuana
Before the vote, a parent’s possession, smoking or growing of cannabis was a factor the Court may consider in determining custody. The vote hasn’t change this. The Court may still consider a parent’s possession, smoking or growing of cannabis in determining custody.
Before the vote, a parent’s possession, smoking or growing of cannabis was illegal, and thus the illegality of such behavior was an additional consideration for the Court in determining custody. While the vote has taken away the illegality aspect for those using cannabis legally, a parent’s possession, smoking or growing of cannabis remains a factor the Court may consider in determining custody.
Whether a parent’s possession, smoking or growing of cannabis impacts custody depends on both the judge’s view and its impacts on the child.
Some considerations on the impact of custody may include:
- Is the cannabis possession, smoking or growing being done within legal limits and within legal boundaries?
- Is the parent responsible with the cannabis?
- Is the child exposed to the cannabis?
- How much cannabis is being used and how often?
- How does the cannabis affect the parent’s ability to parent?
If you have minor children and you have custody issues involving cannabis, you should consult a family law attorney about how it may affect your case.
Erin Kopelman is a family law attorney at Lerch, Early & Brewer in Bethesda, Maryland. To learn more about collecting child support, contact Erin at (301) 347-1261 or [email protected].