Substance abuse is a serious problem among many adults who also happen to be parents of minor children. Contrary to popular belief, substance abuse does not only impact poor families. It affects people from all backgrounds and socioeconomic classes – even the wealthiest and most educated can have an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
If you are getting a divorce or if you are already divorced and your child’s other parent has a substance abuse problem, such as an addiction to alcohol, pain killers, or illegal drugs, you may be concerned about your child’s safety when they are in the other parent’s care. This is understandable since substance abuse can lead to child neglect, child abuse, and child endangerment.
Will the Courts Get Involved?
The courts can definitely get involved when there is an issue of substance abuse. The court can make custody orders in favor of the clean parent when concerns are brought up during a divorce proceeding, or when concerns arise during a child custody hearing after a divorce. Sometimes, concerns are raised by the Department of Child Protective Services when someone else, other than the parents has made a complaint.
If you are concerned that your current or former spouse’s substance abuse problem is getting in the way of their parenting or putting your child at risk, you can raise the issue with the family court. Whether you bring it up during your divorce proceeding or after the divorce has been finalized at a custody hearing, the judge will most likely want to investigate. After all, the family courts across the country are concerned with the best interests of the child.
If a parent is addicted to alcohol, pain killers, illegal drugs, or if the parent abuses prescription drugs; for example, he or she uses unlawfully obtained prescription drugs or they are in the habit of “doctor shopping,” the court will want to know about it.
If it can be proven that the allegations are true, it can influence child custody, especially if it is impacting the parent’s ability to care for their children. For example, if a mother is an alcoholic and she constantly drives under the influence with her children in tow, this places her children in serious danger of a drunk driving crash.
In some cases, a judge may order that the parent with the substance abuse problem only has supervised visits with their children until it can be proven that the parent has cleaned up their act and no longer has a problem.