“How Do California’s New Marijuana Laws Affect Custody and Visitation?”

It used to be, at least in many counties in California, that a positive test for marijuana could mean a change of custody or supervised visitation. California’s changing laws, with first the legalization of medical marijuana, and finally the legalization of recreational marijuana, have caused some major changes.

PLEASE BE AWARE, however, that these are general statements of how cases are being handled, and that counties and judges vary in a SIGNIFICANT way on this issue.

That said, in general, marijuana is now being treated more in somewhat the same vein as alcohol—it is permissible to use, but not around children, and not to excess. Common restrictions include: no use around the minors, no being under the influence around the minors, no use for 8 hours prior to visitation, and no driving while under the influence. In specific cases where bad actions are attributed to use, the court can still ban it entirely.

In cases where heavy, habitual use is alleged, the court can order drug tests which show residual THC levels, which can then be interpreted by experts to determine if the use would have an effect on parenting skills. This is often needed in cases where marijuana is used for medical purposes at controlled doses, but parenting skills are unaffected.

Some of these fights can get pretty ugly, and generally the following principle, which is often used by judges regarding alcohol, applies: sometimes you have to choose whether or not to use a substance (whatever it is) or to put your children first. Sometimes it is a choice between having a fight about the appropriateness of substance use, or focusing on the needs of the children by taking substances out of the equation.
It is important to know your county, your judges, and their viewpoints, and to take the steps needed to make sure your children are safe and protected. You may have a judge who feels that marijuana is no big deal, or one who views it as very dangerous despite the current legality.
Keep an eye on this issue, as there are almost certain to be appeals cases deciding some of these issues and providing judges with some guidance. There are more changes ahead, most likely.

DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.

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