When a California family court judge makes a child custody determination, he or she does so after a lengthy examination of a variety of factors relating to the child and the parents. Known as the "best interests of the child" standard, this determination looks at each family's specific situation to find the custody arrangement that will be the best for that specific child.

In the best interest determination, family court judges examine a wide variety of factors such as a parent's ability to care for the child, which parent is most likely to put a child's needs first, any evidence of domestic violence, and in some cases, the child's wishes. Obviously, to be granted custody or visitation, a parent will need to show that he or she is concerned about the health of the child. According to a recent study, whether the parent smokes may play a large part in that showing.

The study, which was conducted by anti-tobacco advocacy group Action on Smoking and Health, revealed that family court judges in at least 18 states have ruled that subjecting a child to cigarette smoke should be considered when making a child custody determination. In fact, no court has ever ruled that smoking should not be a factor in a custody case.

If smoking is an issue in the best interest standard, it may be worked into the actual custody ruling. For example, the judge may issue an order prohibiting smoking in the presence of the child, or forbid smoking in the home up to 48 hours before the child arrives.

Therefore, if you smoke, be prepared for your smoking to become a part of your custody case, and to alter your habits if necessary to be awarded time with your child.

Source: Washington Times, "Smokers losing child custody cases a growing trend," Myra Fleischer, Feb. 21, 2012