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Addictions complicate child custody ruling

It is not uncommon for marriages to end because one spouse has a chemical dependency. Addiction puts a financial strain on a family, erodes trust and may be the source of physical abuse or neglect. Whether your spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you may have grave concerns about his or her ability to share custody of your child.

Perhaps there have been incidents in the past that demonstrate your co-parent's diminished judgment when under the influence, and you fear such poor decision-making will place your child in danger. If this is the case, you may wonder what recourse you have.

Presenting your concerns to the court

If you already have a court order that allows shared custody with a chemically addicted spouse, you have the option of seeking a modification to that order. If you are still in the beginning stages of settling your divorce, you may wish to ask the court to limit the amount of time your child spends with your spouse until your spouse becomes sober.

The court may share your concerns. For example, some of the factors judges weigh before deciding on shared custody may include:

  • Your co-parent's potential inability to supervise or protect the child
  • The possibility that the parent will engage in dangerous behavior, such as drinking and driving
  • The potential that your co-parent will subject the child to unsafe or unhealthy situations
  • Any violent behavior to which your ex-spouse may be prone when drinking
  • The negative example of chemical dependency your spouse may present to your child

The court may also consult your spouse's driving and criminal records for evidence that alcohol impairs his or her judgment.

Your co-parent's time with your child

The bond between a child and parent - including a parent with substance abuse issues - may be strong and vital to the child's mental and emotional health. This is why the court may allow supervised visitation if your former spouse has shown that he or she is making an effort to recover from the addiction.

Contesting your spouse's right to custody may be an emotionally difficult thing to do, but the court bases its decision on what is best for your child. If you feel your co-parent may endanger the safety or well-being of your child because of his or her alcohol addiction, you may wish to discuss this with your attorney. Your legal advocate will help you present your concerns to the court to seek a custody agreement that assures the well-being of your child.

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