Alcohol and drug abuse can be a huge issue in a custody battle. Sometimes a party will struggle with drug addiction as a way to attempt to cope with the litigation but more frequently is the situation where the party had a drug or alcohol abuse problem prior to the case being filed. Unfortunately, handling substance abuse issues is not always as simple as just giving custody of the child to the parent who does not use drugs or alcohol, or putting the child in foster care if both parents are substance abusers.
Do Courts Tolerate Drug and Alcohol Abuse?
Keeping the child in the home and with at least one parent is the goal of the Court, as is allowing the non-custodial parent to see the child regularly if possible. This does not mean that the issue of alcohol and drug abuse is taken lightly, though. One of the issues that child custody lawyers must consider is whether one or both parents have drug or alcohol abuse problems. Parents who are found to have drug and alcohol abuse problems may lose custody, and they may not be allowed to visit their children unsupervised - or at all, in some cases. Drug and alcohol testing are also commonly required as a condition of either visitation or custody. This can be in the form of hair follicle tests, nail tests, breathalyzers or urinalysis testing. Of course, the abuse of drugs or alcohol must be proven with clear and convincing evidence, and must not be just an accusation by the other parent.
Once the alcohol and drug abuse has been proven, it will be up to the judge to determine what type of custody or visitation the parent should/not have. Parents with alcohol abuse problems will generally not be given custody of their children unless they can show that they have successfully completed substantial rehab and it is in the best interests of the child for them to have access/visitation to the child. Supervised visits will most likely be ordered until the parent can prove continued sobriety. How long the parent must be clean and sober before being allowed to have unsupervised visits with his or her children will be up to the judge.