Parenting cases will involve a variety of complex legal issues, and disputes between parents can sometimes be difficult to resolve. However, these matters can become even more complex when substance abuse is involved. The safety and well-being of children is always the primary concern for the court when determining how parents will share parental responsibilities and when children will spend parenting time with each parent. In cases where a parent has a history of substance abuse, it is important to understand how this issue may impact the outcome of parenting proceedings. An attorney with experience representing clients in contentious family law cases can help ensure that children’s best interests will be protected in these situations.
The Impact of Substance Abuse on Parental Fitness
In any case involving parenting matters, the court will evaluate each parent’s ability to provide a safe and stable environment for their child. Substance abuse can raise serious concerns about a parent’s fitness to care for their child. Courts will consider factors such as:
- The extent of the parent’s substance abuse problem, including any history of violent behavior or child endangerment while intoxicated.
- Any criminal history related to drug or alcohol use, including whether a parent has been involved in frequent drug or alcohol-related incidents or arrests by law enforcement.
- Evidence of neglect or harm caused by substance abuse.
- Whether a parent has demonstrated an inability to fulfill their parental responsibilities due to substance abuse.
- Past attempts at treatment or rehabilitation and the likelihood of a relapse.
If there is substantial evidence that a parent’s substance abuse impairs their ability to adequately care for their child, it may result in restrictions on parenting time rights, or the other parent may even receive sole parental responsibilities of the couple’s children. A court may require a parent with substance abuse issues to complete mandatory drug or alcohol testing before they will be allowed to have parenting time, attend counseling, or therapy programs, or comply with other court-ordered conditions.
Protecting the Best Interests of the Child
When determining child parenting arrangements, courts will always prioritize the best interests of the child. This includes considering factors such as:
- The emotional and physical health of each parent;
- The ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs;
- The stability and continuity provided by maintaining established living arrangements; and
- The preference of a child (based on age and maturity).
In some cases, expert testimony from psychologists or other professionals may be used to assess how substance abuse affects a parent’s relationship with their child. While it is important to preserve positive relationships between a parent and their children, courts will also want to ensure that children are protected from physical and emotional harm. In situations involving substance abuse, parental responsibilities and parenting time arrangements may allow a parent to spend time with their children on a regular basis while also ensuring that the children’s safety and well-being will be protected at all times.
Showcasing Rehabilitation Efforts
If you are a parent struggling with substance abuse but have worked towards recovery and rehabilitation, it is crucial to present evidence of your efforts during your family law case. Demonstrating a commitment to overcoming addiction can influence how the court views your parental fitness, and it can ensure that you will be able to maintain good relationships with your children.
Evidence that can help your case may include:
- Completion certificates from rehab programs or counseling sessions;
- Records of attendance at support group meetings (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous);
- Character references from friends, family members, or colleagues who can speak about your progress; and
- Records showing that you have maintained steady employment and can provide financial stability for yourself and your children.
Contact a St. Charles Child Custody Lawyer for Substance Abuse Issues
If you are involved in a family law case in which substance abuse is a factor, you can work with an experienced lawyer to make sure your rights and the best interests of your children will be protected. At Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella, LLC., our Kane County child custody attorneys have experience handling complicated family law matters, and we can help you address issues related to substance abuse while working tirelessly to protect your rights as a parent. Call 630-665-7300 to set up an initial attorney meeting.