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California child custody decision bolsters parental rights

At the conclusion of a recent appellate hearing, one California father has achieved a major victory upholding his parental rights. The case involves a parent's right to use legally prescribed medical marijuana without the risk of losing child custody. This decision not only affirms this man's right to the care and custody of his son, it also serves as an indicator of the changing ways in which the courts approach the use of medical marijuana.

At the heart of the conflict was the assertion by a local child protective services agency that the father's use of the drug constituted child endangerment. When a social worker visited the family home, the man outlined the steps he takes to ensure that the child, now 2 years old, is never in danger or exposed to the legal drug use. Those measures involve waiting at least four hours between using the drug and picking the child up from daycare, as well as only using the drug in the garage of the home while an adult supervised the child inside the dwelling.

The initial hearing resulted in the father being court ordered to submit to random drug testing and attend drug counseling. The child was placed under the supervision of the child protective services agency. The recent ruling by the Second District Court of Appeal reversed that ruling, leaving the father free to parent his young son free from any form of supervision or oversight.

This case is viewed by many as a win for the parental rights of all parents, in California and across the nation. The ruling will now become part of the body of case law, and can be used to help support the rights of other parents whose fitness is called into question solely based on their need for legally prescribed medication of any sort. Parents who face this type of challenge to their rights to child custody should ensure that they move forward armed with full knowledge of their rights under the law, as well as applicable case law examples and courtroom procedures.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Court lets pot smoker keep child custody," Bob Egelko, Dec. 6, 2012

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