Substance Abuse Affecting Child Custody? Get an Experienced Family Law Attorney Who Cares and Understands.
Substance abuse by either parent in a separation or divorce can have major child custody and visitation consequences. If child custody has yet to be decided by a court, substance abuse issues can complicate the decision. For example, if the court ascertains that both parents abuse drugs or alcohol, the court’s priority will be the best interests of the child, which could mean that neither parent gets custody, in extreme cases.
Typically, if just one of the parents has a substance abuse problem, the other parent will generally have a better chance of gaining custody than the one who’s abusing drugs or alcohol. A variety of factors could lead to a different outcome, however, such as mental health problems, a criminal record, and whether either parent has been absent from the child’s life .
If child custody has already been determined, substance abuse can likewise complicate the other parent’s visitation rights. For example, if you have custody and you know your ex abuses drugs or alcohol, you may be understandably concerned about your child’s safety during visits with that other parent. Your child custody agreement will need to address those concerns. If you are the parent struggling with substance abuse, however, you still have rights; an experienced family-law attorney can guide you.
Whichever scenario you might be in, you can ask the court to modify your custody and visitation agreement if necessary. Virginia Code § 20-108 allows for modification of a custody or visitation order when there has been a material change of circumstances and modification is in the best interests of the child.
A “material change of circumstances” covers a variety of situations: Maybe your child told you the other parent was consuming drugs or alcohol in their presence, or that the parent seemed under the influence while driving, or simply saw items in the parent’s household that indicated recent drug or alcohol use. If the parent was stopped by law enforcement for driving under the influence, or was cited for public intoxication, you may have grounds to notify the court and seek modification of custody or visitation rights.
Modification of custody and visitation in Virginia is a matter best handled with the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. Depending on the evidence and circumstances, the court could opt to restrict or deny the other parent’s visitation rights, could require (or increase the frequency of) drug and alcohol testing (which may involve testing urine or hair follicles), and could even deny custody temporarily or permanently.
Unfortunately, because some separations and divorces are highly contentious, one parent will sometimes falsely accuse the other of substance abuse in an attempt to sway the court’s custody decision. Not only is this very bad for the children, it obviously creates legal and other problems for the person accused. A reputable attorney never engages in false accusations. If you have been falsely accused, you do have rights and should seek legal counsel from an experienced family attorney.
Substance abuse has no place in raising or caring for children. Parents with drug or alcohol issues need to get help immediately. If you are concerned that your co-parent is engaging in substance abuse, you owe it to your children to protect them and ensure they are not subjected to impaired judgment or other behavior problems that accompany substance abuse. Talk with a family lawyer right away to explain your situation and discuss your legal options.
IF YOU’RE IN DANGER
Dial 911 immediately if you believe you or a family member are in imminent danger. Call the police if you feel you’re about to suffer bodily harm.
Family Abuse Attorney
Rebecca Janet Wade
Ms. Wade has represented clients charged with a wide range of offenses from traffic offenses to serious felonies such as aggravated malicious wounding, drug distribution, and sex crimes. Ms. Wade has tried over two dozen jury trials and hundreds of bench trials. Additionally, Ms. Wade has experience handling appeals and has appeared numerous times at the Court of Appeals of Virginia and the Supreme Court of Virginia, earning victories in both Courts.