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Substance abuse and child custody

While many parents joke about their love of wine, substance abuse is a real problem that affects many. If you or your soon-to-be-ex has an issue with drugs or alcohol, it can have a significant impact on the outcome of any custody disputes or changes in visitation. Whether you are being accused of having a substance abuse problem or you are worried about the safety of your children when they are with the other parent due to a drug or alcohol issue, understanding how this can affect custody and visitation is important.

While exactly how child custody cases are handled varies by state and sometimes even jurisdiction or judge, all courts have one thing in common. They are focused on the best interests of the child. Very often, the parents will disagree on what is in the best interests of the child, and that's where the courts get involved.

A parent who is dealing with a drug problem is likely not able to provide a safe, stable environment for the children. The parent may also not be able to provide basic care for the children, such as ensuring they are fed and clean.

In most cases, the courts will not award custody, even shared custody, to a parent who has been shown to have a substance abuse issue that is not being treated. Visitation may also be stopped unless the parent agrees to supervised visits with the child.

A parent who has had drug issues in the past but has since been in treatment and has been sober for a while may be able to begin to petition the courts to reinstate regular visitations or possibly even a shared custody arrangement. Experienced legal guidance is necessary to do this.

Source: Livestrong, "Child Custody & Loss of Parental Rights From Drug Abuse," Mike Broemmel, accessed July 14, 2015

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