Drugs, Alcohol, and Child Custody

The cost of alcohol and drug abuse is high in the United States. Annually, over 400 billion dollars is lost to alcohol and drug abuse in terms of health care, crime, and lost productivity. If you have children, the cost of one parent being addicted to drugs or alcohol can be even higher. We all know that using drugs or alcohol around children can be dangerous or even deadly to the child. You should know that if you are involved in a custody dispute that involves drugs or alcohol, this can have a big impact on the outcome of the case.

The “best interest of the child” is the overall rule in any custody case, and the court commissioner or judge has several different factors that he or she considers. If you believe that it isn’t in your child’s best interest to have a lot of time with the other parent due to that parent’s drug or alcohol abuse, it will be up to you to prove that to the court. It isn’t always easy to prove that a parent is an addict. One way can be with credit card or bank statements. If the other parent is making repeated purchases at a liquor store or gas station, you may be able to show the judge that the other parent is buying way more alcohol than is normal. Using witnesses to testify about seeing the other parent drunk or high is also important evidence.

In some cases, it may be good to ask the court to appoint a guardian ad litem. The guardian will represent what is best for the child. He or she is responsible for conducting a sort of investigation into the case, and will talk to you and to the other spouse. The guardian can provide an impartial opinion to the court, and if he or she agrees that the other parent has a substance abuse problem, that can really help your case.

If you are able to prove that the parent has an alcohol or drug addiction, then what?  Clearly you will be asking the court to take the addiction into account. In fact, a long-term substance abuse problem is one of the things that the court will take into account when deciding to limit parenting time. You may want to consider asking for supervised visitation, a drug and alcohol evaluation, periodic drug testing, or mandatory attendance to Alcoholics Anonymous, for example. The hope is that the addicted parent will get better and the parenting schedule can later be changed to give the parent more time with the child, once the addict has a track record of sobriety.

Keeping your child safe is the biggest priority.  We have helped many clients keep their children safe by creating parenting plans that make special provisions due to one parent being an addict. Call us today at (253) 272-9459 to talk about the special challenges in these cases and what can be done to protect your child.


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