The following was originally posted on Patch.com by Ryan L. Munro as part of a weekly series written by the attorneys of Paule, Camazine and Blumenthal, P.C. called From the Lawyer’s Desk. If you have any areas of the law that you would like discussed as part of that series, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a debate about appropriate gun ownership raging right now in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, it seems that more divorcing parents seem concerned about post-divorce gun ownership issues than ever before. One issue that seems to come up most often is the control after the divorce is final over a child’s exposure to firearms that an ex-spouse owns.
Far from the second amendment, the court will make its considerations regarding appropriate custody based on the best interest of the child. In figuring out what is in the child’s best interest, the court will consider many issues including exposure and control over firearms and various weapons. Responsible gun ownership is generally the court’s key concern. If a parent safely stores legal firearms in a safe or lock-box eliminating a child’s unsupervised access, gun ownership will not be an issue.
Another issue that frequently arises occurs when a parent decides to teach a child about the use of firearms. Questions such as when, if ever, a child should be exposed to the gun usage, hunting, or gun safety classes are frequently not addressed at the time of the divorce and cause parents to return to court. Ideally parents should jointly decide when a child is permitted to shoot a gun. However if a disagreement is imminent , attempting to resolve the issue in advance can save both parents emotionally and economically.
Activities that require the use of guns are a favorite pastime for many people. If your spouse or you have strong beliefs regarding gun ownership or usage and you have children, make sure you discuss this with your attorney at the time of your divorce to understand what specific issues may arise in your case.
The best course is to just use common sense. Don’t take a position regarding firearms just based on “your rights.” Try to explore the actual concerns surrounding the firearm issue and come up with some plan about how to address those specific concerns. For example, what age can a child attend gun safety classes? What safety classes will be taken? When will they be able to go hunting? When will they be able to go to the firing range? Where will the guns be kept and under what conditions when the children are present?
After a divorce, a spouse may not be able to control what a parent decides regarding instruction and use of firearms with a child because unless it effects the health and safety of the child, the court will not interfere with the everyday activities of a parent and child. So, if this is important to you, you need to make sure that your parenting plan includes language that sets out what contact your child will have with guns. The easiest way to do this is to consult with your attorney about this question early in the divorce process.