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Impact of Alcohol & Drug Abuse on Child Custody & Visitation

Child custody lawyer, Catie Young discusses the devastating effect of substance abuse in divorce cases.

When a parent struggles with alcohol or drug abuse, it can have significant consequences on their relationship with their children. During a divorce, or post judgment family court proceeding, a Court can limit a parent’s custody rights by placing the parent on supervised visitation – or in some cases, the Court will suspend visitation for a period of time if the drug or alcohol problem is left untreated or unaddressed. In more serious cases, Child Welfare Services (CWS) may intervene, which could result in the children being removed from the parent’s care and/or loss of parental rights.

The standard used by California courts in determining custody issues is the “best interests of the children”. It is the public policy of California to assure that the health, safety, and welfare of children shall be the court’s primary concern in determining the best interest of children when making any orders for custody and visitation. Fam. Code §3020(a). California courts consider various factors that affect a child’s health and safety, one being, habitual or continual drug use or alcohol abuse. A child custody attorney can explain in detail all considerations viewed by the court.

A parent suffering from alcoholism or substance abuse is not deemed to be fit to the parent or in a position to make decisions that are in the best interests of the children. Depending on the severity of the alcohol or drug abuse, a family Court judge may require the parent to seek counseling or treatment, including outpatient programs, Alcohol Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

The Court may also require the parent to submit to random drug or alcohol tests or undergo a drug or alcohol evaluation. In the most serve cases, the Court may order the parent to participate in inpatient treatment and rehabilitation. There are various factors considered by a Judge when determining the impact of alcohol and drug abuse custody and visitation, including, the type of drug(s) used by the parent, the length of time the parent has abused drugs or alcohol, whether the parent has a history of drug or alcohol abuse, whether the parent has attempted rehabilitation and/or treatment, the success of the rehabilitation, etc.

The potential harm the child is exposed to under these circumstances is too significant and the risks are too great, so often times, the Court will err on the side of caution and make orders affecting your custody and/or visitation rights. Thus, treating the underlying illness or addiction is often critical to protecting your custody and parental rights. No parent is perfect, and even those who find themselves suffering from alcohol or drug addiction can gain their custody and parental rights back if the parent is committed to treatment and sobriety and there is a showing of successful rehabilitation.

If you are a parent who suffers from alcoholism or drug abuse, or you are attempting to co-parent with a parent who suffers from this type of addiction, you have rights. Our team of child custody lawyers at Griffith, Young & Lass understand that this is a sensitive issue that can have a significant impact on your family, children and your custody rights.

The attorneys at Griffith, Young & Lass have the experience and knowledge you need during this difficult time. We encourage you speak with an experienced child custody attorney to determine your next steps and ensure you understand your rights under California’s custody laws.

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Posted in Child Custody

John Griffith on February 25th, 2016

John Griffith is an experienced family law specialist with extensive trial experience. John is knowledgeable about all aspects of family law and specializes in complex jurisdictional child custody and support cases, as well as litigious divorce cases with high assets.