If you’re a divorcing parent who has had substance abuse issues, you could feel like they’re being used against you if your spouse is seeking primary or sole custody of your children. You may even fear you will be allowed only supervised visitation.
Whether they’re doing this out of genuine concern for your kids’ safety or they’re just using every tool at their disposal to keep the children, you need to know how to protect your parenting rights.
If you’ve only recently gotten sober, your spouse may not feel confident that it will last – especially if you’ve tried unsuccessfully before. Even if your spouse believes in and supports your commitment to recovery, they may feel you’ve done too much harm to your children to be allowed shared custody.
What factors do judges weigh in these situations?
If a judge is going to decide how much access you have to your children, you need to present a solid case. The court’s responsibility is to do what’s best for your children. How do you show them that you can be trusted to share parenting responsibilities?
A significant factor will be whether your substance abuse contributed to harming or endangering your children. Even if you don’t have anything egregious in your history like a domestic violence case or a DUI where your children were with you, you can probably expect your spouse (or others) to testify to situations where you were negligent or placed a child in an unsafe situation.
The judge will likely also consider how long it’s been since you’ve used alcohol or drugs and what you’re doing to stay sober. If you have a least a year of sobriety and continue to go to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or are in therapy, that will put you in a better position than if you’re fresh out of rehab.
Having people who can attest to your commitment to recovery can be key. This might include your AA sponsor, your therapist and family members or colleagues. You may also need to agree to random or regular drug or alcohol testing.
Judges generally don’t want to keep parents away from their children unless they present a danger to them. Remember that any order handed down in your divorce can be modified later as you get more time in recovery behind you. Having experienced legal guidance is key to working to achieve the best possible outcome.