Bastarrika, Soto, Gonzalez & Somohano, L.L.P.

5 factors for custody with a substance abuser

If you are facing divorce from a spouse suffering from a substance abuse problem, you have probably already been on an emotional roller coaster for quite a while. You may be hoping that your divorce will put an end to your ride. Unfortunately for your children, they will have to navigate a relationship with your ex long after the divorce is final.

You know how your spouse’s problems have affected your children, but you may be wondering what the court will look at regarding this issue when deciding custody issues. Here are five factors the court may consider:

  1. Safety of the children. Your children’s well-being will always be put first with the court. First and foremost, the court wants to make sure your children are safe with whichever parent they are spending time with. If you allege that your spouse has a substance abuse issue, the court should take the matter seriously.
  2. Drug or alcohol testing. Some courts will set up safeguards for your spouse, such as random drug or alcohol testing, or even order your spouse to complete a treatment program. The court may require supervised visitation until your spouse is clean.
  3. Is the problem ongoing? If your spouse claims the problem is behind him or her, the court may or may not believe them. The court may be cautious at first, but remember that the court will also want to see your spouse have a relationship with your children. If your spouse can show he or she has made a change, the court will count that in their favor. Child custody issues can always be modified and revisited by the court.
  4. Are your concerns genuine? Unfortunately, divorce can bring out the worst in people, especially in a custody dispute. The court has probably seen people lie in ways you would never imagine, so understand that the court will want to make sure your allegations are true. If the court decides you are only making the allegation to gain a leg-up in a custody dispute, you may be the one at a disadvantage.
  5. Willingness to work together. The court wants to see your children have a relationship with your spouse, if possible. They want to know you will be encouraging your spouse to succeed and be part of your children’s lives. This may be hard for you to do when you have witnessed the damage your spouse has already done to your family. Try to see it from your children’s perspective. They still love your spouse, and probably want to have a relationship. You should be supportive of your spouse for your children’s sake, even if it doesn’t work out in the end.

The courts know how important your children’s relationships with both parents are after a divorce. They also know the chaos and trauma substance abuse has on families. They see it every day. Your children still have many ups and downs ahead of them, even after the divorce. You have always been their steady support, and they will still need you to play that role, no matter the court’s decision.

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