Substance Abuse and its Impact on Custody
Updated: Jan 20
Are you concerned that the Mother or Father of your children may have substance abuse issues? You’re not alone. Substance abuse is a common issue that arises in divorce and custody matters. As the Court’s primary focus in an allocation of parental responsibilities matter is the child’s best interests, allegations of drug and/or alcohol abuse are taken very seriously by the Court. Here’s what you need to know about substance abuse and its impact on custody determinations:
Child and Family Investigator/Parental Responsibilities Evaluator
In order to investigate claims of substance abuse, the Court may appoint a custody expert. These are typically either Child and Family Investigators (CFI for short) or Parental Responsibility Evaluators (PRE for short). A CFI or PRE may be appointed to your case to make recommendations on parenting time and decision making and opine as to whether a parent’s substance use places the child at risk of harm. If so, a number of recommendations may be made to protect the child during that parent’s parenting time, including supervised parenting time and/or monitored sobriety.
Substance Abuse Evaluation
In addition to appointing a custody expert, the Court may Order that the parent with substance abuse issues undergo a substance abuse evaluation. A substance abuse evaluator will administer tests and screenings, interview the parties and collaterals, and review relevant documents to determine whether a parent is prone to substance abuse and to what degree. This evaluation will also include recommendations, and like a CFI or PRE, the substance abuse evaluator may recommend supervised parenting time, different methods of monitored sobriety, and/or abstaining from substances all together.
Common forms of monitored sobriety include random UA testing and use of a portable breathalyzer device known as SoberLink. The Court can also order a parent to submit to hair or nail testing. Often times, the consequences for a missed, positive, or dilute test can be severe. It can mean a reduction, restriction, or loss of parenting time. It can also mean that the term of your monitored sobriety increases or “starts over” to day one. While these consequences may seem harsh, a parent that abuses drugs or alcohol during their parenting time places their child at risk of harm. Safeguards often must be put in place to promote the safety and welfare of the child.
If you suspect the Mother or Father of your child has substance abuse issues, speak up. It is important to express these concerns early on so the proper steps can be taken to ensure your child’s safety. It is also important to have an advocate by your side that understands the impact substance abuse has on custody cases, as well as what steps you need to take to protect your child’s safety. If you’re in need of help, contact our office to schedule your free initial consultation.