When deciding on child custody and visitation matters in divorce settlements, the courts use a checklist to determine what is in the best interest of the child. One of those items includes the health and welfare of the child in question. If national trends continue, Texas residents who are considering divorce -- and smoking -- might want to add "quit smoking" to their list of things to do.
More and more states are considering whether or not a parent smokes as criteria for awarding child custody. Previous cases across the country have included court orders for parents to stop smoking in their vehicles and homes when children are present. In fact, Texas already has a law on the books prohibiting smoking in a vehicle when transporting foster children. It would seem that considering smoking as a health and safety factor is a logical next step in child custody arrangements.
Custody settlements have also included precedent-setting rules ensuring clean air for children. Such rules include not allowing smoking in the home or vehicle within a specific number of hours before the child is to visit. Those rules also extend to contact the child may have with any friends and relatives who smoke. One judge ordered a mother to keep her home, vehicle and the grandparent's home free from second-hand smoke if she wanted to maintain custody of her child.
While many people believe it's a slippery slope to deny visitation because of a parent's legal right to smoke, it is well-documented that second-hand smoke is a dangerous health hazard. If a child has allergies or a respiratory problem such as asthma, parents may want to consider kicking the habit before seeking custodial rights in a divorce settlement.
Source: The Washington Times, "Smokers losing child custody cases a growing trend," Myra Fleischer, Feb. 21, 2012
Source: njgasp.org, "Smoke-free vehicles when children are present," Feb. 1, 2012