Substance Abuse and Child Custody

When it comes to children, the term “custody” has two meanings. First, there is “legal custody,” then there is “physical custody.” Legal custody refers to making important decisions on your child’s behalf, such as those involving healthcare, education, childcare, religious upbringing, etc. Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to where the child is living.

If your child’s other parent has a substance abuse issue, it’s a cause for concern. Depending on what he or she is addicted to, you may be worried about them drinking and driving with your child in the car, passing out and neglecting your child, forgetting to feed your child or take them to school, or you may be worried about them getting overly-angry and mentally or physically abusing your child.

Can Substance Abuse Impact Custody?

If your child’s mother or father surrounds themselves with questionable individuals who are alcoholics or addicted to drugs, you may be worried about your ex’s friends endangering your child’s emotional or physical well-being. Taking all the above into consideration, can your ex’s drug or alcohol problem affect their custody rights?

If a parent has a current substance abuse problem, it can definitely affect custody rights, but a judge needs to be made aware of it. If you have a concern about your child’s welfare, you should bring it up to a judge sooner than later. When a judge decides on a child custody case, he or she will use the “best interests of the child” doctrine to guide their custody decisions.

However, the fact that a parent has a substance abuse problem does not guarantee they’ll lose custody rights. Instead of stripping (terminating) such a parent of their parental rights, it’s more likely that their visitation will be supervised, meaning, they could only see their children in the presence of a third party.

Is the Abuse Old or Current?

If your child’s other parent is actively abusing drugs or alcohol, it can be very difficult for them to convince a judge to have physical custody and be the custodial parent. If your ex is addicted to drugs presently, you should seek sole legal custody; however, the judge may grant them supervised visits, which takes place in a county facility that is specifically designated for supervised visits in these types of circumstances.

If your child’s other parent has a substance abuse problem, we urge you to contact our firm right away to schedule a consultation. Your child’s health and well-being are a top priority and we’d be happy to help you find a swift and effective solution.