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A lot of people have issues with substance abuse, whether their drug of choice is alcohol, an illegal drug or drugs, or prescription medication. Substance abuse impacts people from all races, religions, and socioeconomic classes – even some of the smartest and wealthiest find themselves relying on drugs or alcohol to numb their painful memories or to help them cope with the everyday stressors of life.

If you are married to someone with a substance abuse problem or if you are divorcing someone who has substance abuse issues, you may be wondering if, when and how substance abuse can impact child custody.

Getting the Courts Involved

Can a parent’s drug or alcohol problem impact child custody? In a word, yes. Generally, the family courts get involved when a parent’s substance abuse problem is affecting their parenting. Often, when a parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol, or both, the addiction can affect parenting in more ways than one.

Ways substance abuse can affect parenting:

  • The parent can pass out and neglect their parenting duties or fail to properly supervise their children.
  • The parent can leave their children home for long periods of time while searching for drugs.
  • The parent can expose their children to dangerous people and places as they seek out their next fix.
  • The parent can become violent toward their children while under the influence.
  • Certain drugs can increase the risk of child sexual abuse.
  • The parent can sell furniture and other necessary belongings in the home so they can purchase drugs.
  • The parent may not have sufficient food in their cupboards because the addiction causes them to neglect basic parenting responsibilities.
  • The parent who is under the influence may forget to take their child to school or fail to properly feed, clothe, and bathe their child.

Typically, a parent’s substance abuse problem is raised during a divorce or child custody action, but it can also be brought to a judge’s attention when someone calls Child Protective Services and reports child abuse or neglect.

Bringing the Addiction Up to a Judge

If you have concerns about your spouse’s substance abuse problem and you are planning on getting a divorce, you should bring it up to the judge. If the issue is serious enough, a judge could determine that the children are safer with you. Or, if you are getting a divorce and your spouse later develops a substance abuse problem and you feel it would be in your children’s best interests to modify the custody order, you can bring up the addiction before the judge on the case.

At Cairns Law Offices, we offer cheap, no-fault divorce services. While we can offer basic child custody advice, if you expect a child custody dispute, we cannot help you because the way we keep our services affordable is by assisting in strictly collaborative divorces.

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