A parent who own guns and is seeking custody of children after a divorce is likely to face this issue during divorce negotiations. Parents who own guns can have custody of children, but the way the guns are used, stored, and kept could become controversial issues when it comes time to for family courts to decide on custody or visitation issues.
Gun control laws and gun storage laws vary by state. Family law courts will be interested in ensuring that children do not have access to guns if they are in the home. Parents who own guns must also abide by all the laws of their state regarding gun ownership. Guns must be licensed and the licenses must be kept up-to-date. Parents who lapse in their legal responsibilities regarding their gun ownership can expect these issues to become part of custody considerations and negotiations.
- In Massachusetts, guns must be kept in a locked storage unit and they must have a safety or lock that is engaged at all times, and shotguns cannot be stored anywhere a person under 18 can access them.
- In California, a person is not allowed to possess firearms if a restraining order has been issued against them by an intimate partner, whether or not that person is a legal spouse. If a parent continues to own a gun after a restraining order has been issued against them, this could be an impediment to receiving desired custody or visitation rights.
- In North Carolina, a parent can be held liable for negligence if an unemancipated minor uses a firearm to commit a crime or injure a person, and if the parent or guardian didn’t take action or make effort to prevent the access to the gun or prevent the incident itself from occurring.
In early 2015, an Illinois family court placed a condition on a father’s custody request, ordering that no guns could be kept in the house while his daughter was under the age of 18. He appealed and won, on the grounds that the order violated his Second Amendment right to own guns. Since the father owned the guns legally, and stored them according to state and federal regulations, he could not be penalized either by being denied custody or by being forced to relinquish his gun collection.
Anyone going through a divorce or custody battle should have a knowledgeable child custody lawyer to represent them, and on issues of gun ownership, it is important that the lawyer have knowledge of your state’s gun laws.