Family laws and gun ownership rights vary widely across different localities. Owning a gun does not automatically disqualify you from being awarded custody of a child in most jurisdictions. However, your responsible ownership and storage of firearms can factor into a court’s decision about the child’s best interest.
In a child custody case, the court’s main concern is the best interest of the child. The following factors may be considered:
- Safety: Is the firearm stored securely? Is there a risk of the child accessing it without supervision?
- Training: Have you received appropriate training in firearm safety, and do you follow those safety protocols?
- Mental Health: Are there any mental health issues that might impact your safe use or ownership of a firearm?
- Criminal Record: If you have a criminal record related to violence or illegal use of firearms, this could negatively impact your custody case.
- State Laws: Some states have stricter laws regarding gun ownership and may take it into consideration more seriously.
- Accusations or History of Domestic Violence: If there’s a history of domestic violence, and a gun is present in the home, this may be a serious concern to the court.
To ensure your firearm ownership does not negatively impact your child custody case, you should:
- Store your firearms and ammunition securely in a way that your child cannot access them.
- Show that you have completed a firearm safety course.
- If it is pertinent, be prepared to demonstrate that you have no history of violence or irresponsible use of firearms.
- Follow all local and national laws regarding firearm ownership and use.
This area of law is very complex. Therefore, you should consult with a family law attorney in your jurisdiction to understand how your firearm ownership could impact your child custody case. They can give you advice tailored to your specific circumstances and legal jurisdiction.
Which Gun Laws Affect Custody Decisions?
The Second Amendment right to own guns protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms in the United States. However, this right is not without restrictions. Gun laws vary by state and can influence custody decisions based on the safety and welfare of the child involved. While gun ownership in itself may not impact custody decisions, the manner in which a person handles their firearms can.
Here are a few ways in which gun laws can intersect with child custody rights.
Safety and Proper Storage
If a parent legally owns a gun, one major concern will be how the gun is stored. Many states have Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws that require gun owners to store firearms and ammunition securely to prevent children from gaining access to them. Violation of these laws can potentially affect a custody decision.
Permitting and Licensing
If a parent owns a gun illegally (without proper permits or licensing), this could negatively affect their custody case, as it demonstrates a disregard for the law.
Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders
Federal law prohibits individuals with a domestic violence conviction or those subject to a restraining order from possessing firearms. If a parent falls into either of these categories, this will affect both their Second Amendment rights and potentially their rights to child custody.
Federal law also prohibits gun ownership by individuals who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution or otherwise adjudicated as mentally ill. If a parent falls under this category, it may impact custody decisions.
If a court deems that a child is at risk due to a parent’s gun ownership—such as concerns about the child’s access to firearms, improper storage, or threats of violence—that parent’s custody or visitation rights could be limited.
Overall, while the Second Amendment upholds the right to bear arms, responsible and legal gun ownership is crucial, especially in the context of child custody cases. Each case is unique, so it’s advisable to consult with a lawyer in your jurisdiction to understand your rights and responsibilities better.
Which States Deny Custody Because of Gun Ownership?
Gun ownership can potentially impact child custody and divorce disputes in all states, but the specifics can vary based on the state’s laws and the circumstances surrounding the case.
In general, family law courts across the U.S. are interested in ensuring that children do not have access to guns if they are in the home. Parents who own guns must comply with all the laws of their state regarding gun ownership. If parents lapse in their legal responsibilities regarding their gun ownership, these issues can become part of custody considerations and negotiations.
Massachusetts requires guns to be kept in a locked storage unit and to have a safety or lock that is engaged at all times. 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. 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.
North Carolina law holds a parent liable for negligence if an unemancipated minor uses a firearm to commit a crime or injure a person. The parent or guardian is also liable if they don’t take action to prevent access to the gun or the incident itself from occurring.
An Illinois family court case in 2015 initially 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. However, the father appealed and won, as he owned the guns legally and stored them according to state and federal regulations.
The court must often find that a parent’s gun ownership specifically endangers the child in some way for it to factor into a custody determination. A parent who shows the court that they are a safe and responsible firearm owner will likely have little cause for concern about being a gun owner who is involved in a custody case.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you’re involved in a child custody case, and there are complexities around gun ownership, it would be advisable to consult with a lawyer. The specifics of family law and firearm regulations can be intricate and vary widely from state to state.
LegalMatch is a valuable resource for finding a lawyer who handles family law cases in your specific jurisdiction. Their matching service can help you find a skilled attorney who has experience dealing with the intersection of gun ownership and child custody. They will understand how to navigate your specific circumstances within the context of local and state laws.
Remember, a child custody lawyer can:
- Help explain your rights and responsibilities under the law.
- Advocate for your interests and those of your child(ren).
- Assist you in demonstrating responsible gun ownership, if applicable.
- Guide you in assembling necessary documentation and forming compelling legal arguments.
- Represent you in court, if necessary.
Custody cases can be emotionally challenging and legally complex, so having an experienced professional on your side can be invaluable. You can start your search with LegalMatch to find the right lawyer for your case.