Chronic alcoholism or other substance abuse can have a dramatic impact on the issue of child custody. A parent proven to be an alcohol or drug abuser in court can wind up losing physical custody of his or her child and be permitted only limited contact with the child or only supervised, limited contact. However, the key factor in this matter is proving that the parent does abuse alcohol or drugs and that the abuse puts the child at risk.
According to research done by the National Institutes of Health, it has been estimated than eight million or more children under the age of 18 have a parent who is a substance abuser. Studies have shown that living with an alcoholic or drug abuser negatively affects children in matters of their development. It brings a likelihood that they will have emotional or behavioral problems or that they themselves will also become substance abusers. These studies show that these families live in environments of “secrecy, loss, conflict, violence or abuse, emotional chaos, role reversal, and fear.” So while California courts favor a child having a frequent and continuing relationship with both parents, if one is an alcoholic it can have a dramatically negative impact on the child’s life and future.
Need legal help with a custody case or other family law matter in Orange County? Call Burch Shepard Family Law Group at (949) 565-4158 to arrange to speak with an attorney.
Custody Arrangements in California
In light of the potential harm substance abuse can have on a child, proving or disproving it then becomes an important issue. The assertion that a parent is unfit to have custody because of his or her substance abuse must be substantiated in court. The court must then decide, based on the evidence presented, whether the substance abuse is enough to either limit or deny access to the child on the part of the substance abuser. The court can decide to give the other parent sole physical custody while giving both parties legal custody. Legal custody differs from physical custody in that it only gives a parent the right to make major decisions about the child’s life, such as his or her education, health care, religious upbringing, and more.
The court may also decide to give both physical and legal custody to the non-abusing parent. If the court decides the evidence if substance abuse presented is not convincing, it may grant both physical and legal custody to both parents on a shared basis.
In order to prove alcoholism or drug abuse, the evidence presented can include such things as medical reports, DUI arrests, drug arrests, court-ordered or voluntary treatment programs that then failed, witness testimony, job loss or difficulty maintaining one’s job due to substance abuse, random drug tests, remote alcohol monitoring systems or through other means to determine the extent of abuse. Such evidence must be presented to avoid false accusations of substance abuse and a loss of parental rights for a parent along with a loss of interaction for the child. Even with such evidence, the accused parent may contest it with his or her own proof that the abuse occurred a long time ago, that he or she has effectively overcome it, or that the allegations of “abuse” are exaggerated, overstated, or a ploy to deny the parent-child relationship.
In cases where some degree of substance abuse does exist, courts will have the difficult task of weighing the risks as opposed to the benefit of allowing the parent to maintain his or her relationship with the child, especially in cases where that relationship has been primarily a healthy one.
Need Legal Advocacy for Your Custody Case in Orange County?
Custody cases are often extremely complicated and contentious matters. If you need representation in your case, whether it involves a pending divorce or in a post-divorce context, you can turn to Burch Shepard Family Law Group in Huntington Beach. Our talented and experienced team of attorneys bring vast knowledge, skill, and insight into all family law issues based on our decades of concentration in this field. We recommend that you bring your child custody or other family law issue to us for the genuine care and professionalism you deserve in moving forward.
Contact us at (949) 565-4158 to book a free, initial case review today.