Let me start this article by emphasizing that I’m a physician. For personalized guidance in any legal matter, you should always consult with an attorney.  With that caveat up front, this article will examine some of the legal hurdles that can be faced by divorcing parents who are medical marijuana patients in Massachusetts.

Will I Lose Custody of My Son or Daughter if I’m a Registered Medical Marijuana Patient?

There are two types of child custody: physical custody, which relates to where your child will live, and legal custody, which relates to parental authority over matters like schooling, healthcare, religion, and military service.  Custody may be divided on an approximately equal basis (joint or shared custody), or granted exclusively to one parent (sole custody), though non-custodial parents generally maintain visitation rights unless parental rights are terminated due to issues like sexual abuse, physical abuse, or willful neglect or abandonment.

Parents who are getting divorced may work together to create their own custody plan, called a “parenting plan.”  However, if the parents are unwilling or unable to work out a mutual agreement on their own terms, the courts will be forced to intervene and impose a custody plan.

Generally speaking, family courts try to grant joint custody where doing so serves the best interests of the child.  That phrase – “the best interests of the child” – is absolutely paramount in custody determination matters.  When making a custody determination, the court’s ultimate goal is to ensure that the child will be raised under safe, healthy conditions where all of his or her basic needs will be met.  The relevant statute under the Massachusetts General Law, M.G.L. c. 208, sec. 31, contains the following provision:

“In making an order or judgment relative to the custody of children, the rights of the parents

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