Almost every state in our country has been changing its attitude toward marijuana usage, both medically and recreationally, and Maryland is no different. To reflect this changing climate, Maryland’s laws towards the substance are changing with them.
As of July 1st of this year, an adult 21 and over may legally possess a small but still considerable amount of marijuana. While public consumption of any sort is still strictly forbidden, this change means millions of Maryland citizens will be able to safely enjoy marijuana at home without fear of legal repercussions. A related law passed on the same day also means that parents of minor children are no longer considered neglectful just for partaking in the substance.
Depending on your situation as a parent, this is either good news — or extremely worrying. However, it’s important to remember that no law is ever as clear-cut as it seems. Nuance and circumstance greatly plays in to how a case is treated. If you’re worried about your spouse’s substance abuse of any kind, consulting with a Columbia family law attorney can illuminate the options available to you.
Excessive use of any impairing substance can still be deemed abusive or neglectful
This new law is not the free-for-all it may seem to be on first glance. Maryland takes the mistreatment — or even the potential for mistreatment — of any child incredibly seriously, so they make sure caveats exist to reflect that. So, while it is true that just using marijuana as a parent is no longer a form of neglect, if a court finds that the parent’s usage has negatively affected the child in any way, it could still affect custody and lead to criminal liability. This could either mean the child’s welfare or overall health is potentially or currently at risk, or it could mean the child has suffered a mental injury or trauma as a result of their parent’s usage.
In fact, substance abuse of any sort is one of the most common reasons why someone may be found unfit for full — or even partial — custody, alongside other mental health issues, domestic violence, or other abuse, and their parental bond and ability.
One of the ways Maryland defines child abuse and neglect is, “the failure to give proper care and attention to a child, leaving a child unattended where the child’s health or welfare is harmed or a child is placed in substantial risk of harm,” which means any actions that contribute to those terms may legally count. For example, smoking marijuana in your child’s immediate presence, leaving edibles in an accessible area, or being influenced enough that it affects your parenting could all fall under the definition of neglect, even with the new law in place.
Courts and child protective services alike are always looking out for signs of abuse that even an innocent co-parent may miss, even if no abuse has been reported. If you are trying to divorce a negligent co-parent, every aspect of both of your lives will be scrutinized and considered during the custody battle — and that could include your child’s personal preference. So, while marijuana usage alone is not grounds for neglect, the court could still very easily use excessive or irresponsible consumption as one of the reasons to award you full custody. Hiring a tenacious and experienced family law attorney can ensure you and your children stay safe and protected while also making sure your ex doesn’t get away with trying to falsify any medical records or tests.
Putting your children first when your co-parent suffers from an addiction
For those addicted to a substance of any sort, and especially for parents, it can ruin the lives of those around them, too. Make no mistake — it is a disease and one that deserves treatment. But as parents, our primary duty must be to our children. Those suffering from a serious addiction may have other problems such as mental illnesses or abusive tendencies, and the nature of that disease is they won’t get help until they’re ready, no matter what may be on the line.
So, if you are trying to divorce a substance-addicted spouse, especially if they’re potentially dangerous, and ESPECIALLY if you have children, you should reach out to a trustworthy Columbia divorce attorney adept at handling these difficult situations. Alongside that crucial step are others you can take to strengthen your future case, such as documenting every time your spouse irresponsibly uses drugs (including marijuana), getting in contact with support groups, and creating a plan for escape and custody. If your spouse is actively dangerous (or you feel they will become so) to either you or your children, you may also want to file a protective order against them that removes them from your home and helps you secure sole custody.
How our Columbia divorce attorneys help when your ex is uncooperative
Not only can your divorce attorney help with all the above steps, they can also help you figure out what grounds to file under (and the law changes in October make it easier), and how to plan for as much of your divorce as possible — even if your ex won’t help. Truly experienced divorce attorneys are adept at high-conflict divorces of all sorts. Alongside providing a sympathetic and empathetic shoulder to lean on, they can handle correspondence with your ex so you don’t have to, conduct their own investigations to help your case, and explore every possible angle to help you. No matter your exact situation, even if you haven’t begun the process of your divorce, an attorney can increase your chances of success.
Whether your spouse is addicted, abusive, neglectful, or a mix of the three, you and your children have a path out safely as long as you take certain steps to protect yourself. The very first step, as soon as you decide enough is enough, is to contact a Columbia divorce attorney for advice. At McCabe Russell, PA, our experienced, compassionate family law and divorce attorneys are here for you, your children, and your assets with offices in Fulton, Columbia, Rockville, and Bethesda. For more information and to get started, call us today or use our contact form. We want to help — and we know how. Proudly serving Montgomery and Howard Counties.