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Addiction can impact parental rights

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2016 | Child Custody & Parenting Time

Most people know or at least suspect when someone close has an addiction. Maybe your spouse’s addiction was the main reason your marriage ended. Raising children with a drug addict or alcoholic can be frustrating and frightening because mind-altering substances can make a person undependable or even dangerous.

Addiction is a factor courts will take into consideration when making child custody decisions. If you suspect your former spouse is no longer able to control his or her dependency, you may wish to contact your lawyer to discuss the possibility of modifying child custody orders.

Addiction is not in your child’s best interest

Child custody is determined by the overarching standard of what is best for the child. Courts in every state interpret this goal with varying degrees of specificity, but all, including Colorado, center their decisions on the child’s safety.

When you petition a judge for modification of custody orders to protect your child from your addicted ex-spouse, the judge will consider a number of factors:

  • What substances is your ex using?
  • How long has your ex been using drugs or drinking?
  • How often does your ex drink or use drugs?
  • How willing is your ex to attend and make progress in a treatment program?

A judge will also take into account any DUI charges your ex may have as well as your spouse’s use of medical marijuana.

What consequences may my ex face?

The courts do not take substance abuse lightly, especially when children are involved. If your child’s other parent is frequently under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she may not be able to protect your child or to provide for the child’s best interests. Living with an addicted parent may cause psychological harm as well as place the child in physical danger.

Because of this, a parent risks losing his or her rights in three ways:

  • Visitation: The court may require supervised visitation or suspend visitation rights altogether.
  • Custody: A judge may deny custody to a parent with addiction issues, or the parent could lose custody if the courts learn of addiction after granting custody.
  • Parental rights: The court may terminate an addict’s parental rights in some circumstances.
    • The addicted parent abuses the child
    • The addicted parent neglects the child or places him or her in danger
    • The parent refuses or fails at treatment

Courts across the country strive to keep families together and understand the importance of the positive influence of both parents. However, if your spouse struggles with sobriety, it is likely he or she is not a positive influence. In such cases, the well-being of your child trumps family unity.

Protecting your child

You are within your rights as a parent to protect your child from harm, even if the harm is in the form of your co-parent. Contacting a dedicated family law attorney is the first step. Your attorney will undertake to preserve the best interests of your child. This preservation process could include filing for child custody modifications to protect your child from the negative influence and potential danger of an addictive parent.