Protective Measures For Children In Divorces Involving Substance Abuse

Cropped view of father holding bottle of liquor, facing two small children sitting on sofa; children in divorces involving substance abuse concept.

Protective Measures For Children In Divorces Involving Substance Abuse

Arizona family courts take parental substance abuse very seriously. Many people in the U.S. struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol, and sadly, many of these people with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) may also be parents. Drug use and drinking, especially around children, have a major impact on custody and visitation orders and may include reducing the decision-making authority of the addicted parent. At Sullivan Law Office, our family law attorneys have extensive experience helping parents who are navigating the complexities of protecting children in divorce. We may be able to help you protect your child if you are divorcing a spouse with addiction issues. Our attorneys offer support to parents who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction as they take steps toward restoring a healthy relationship with their children after addiction treatment. Call us today at (480) 719-2558 to talk to an Arizona lawyer who understands your concerns.

Substance Abuse and Restrictions on Parental Responsibilities

Restricting custody and decision-making responsibilities of the parent with SUD may be important for two reasons. Most importantly, a family law judge has the obligation to rule in the best interests of the child, protecting their safety and well-being. Removing the child from a dangerous situation, such as those that may arise when a parent is abusing alcohol or drugs, is intended to protect the child. In addition, though, the removal of the child (and the responsibility for caring for the child) may offer the parent with SUD the time and opportunity to seek treatment and get sober.

Arizona Laws Regarding Child Custody and Parental Substance Abuse

Arizona laws do not show a differentiation between substance abuse and addiction. However, in general, family courts often view “addiction”” as referring to people who are in recovery treatment and taking steps to address their addiction disorder and remain sober. One parent being in recovery or treatment does not negate the court’s obligation to establish safeguards for the child. The addicted parent’s time with the child or ability to have joint custody may be contingent on their continued sobriety or on successfully completing a treatment program.

Substance abuse, on the other hand, is generally regarded as the parent still drinking or using drugs and not addressing their use or addiction. If one parent accuses the other of substance abuse, and that parent is not seeking treatment, or is showing an unwillingness to change their behavior, then an Arizona family law judge may reduce that parent’s parenting time and parental responsibilities pursuant to § 24-403 Az. Rev. Stat., potentially restricting the substance-abusing parent’s time with the child to supervised visits

Looking Out for the Best Interest of the Child in Divorce

When a judge makes a ruling for custody and legal decision-making responsibility, they look at which options are in the best interests of the child. If one parent is in active addiction, especially if they are drinking or using drugs in front of the child, then the judge views it as dangerous for the child’s well-being.

However, many family law courts also believe that a healthy relationship with both parents is in the best interests of children in divorce. They may permit supervised visitation for the parent struggling with addiction or may work with a newly sober parent to increase their parenting time with their child.

How Does One Parent’s Substance Use Affect Child Custody Decrees?

If one parent has been convicted of a drug offense within the 12 months prior to the custody hearing, or if the judge has otherwise determined that the parent is abusing drugs or alcohol, then § 24-403.04 Az. Rev. Stat. specifies that there is a rebuttable presumption against the parent with a documented history of substance abuse within the past twelve months . A rebuttable presumption indicates that the court will proceed under the assumption that, unless the parent can show evidence to the contrary, awarding that parent sole or joint custody of the child will not be in the child’s best interest.

The parent against whom there is a presumption does have the opportunity to rebut this presumption if they can provide enough evidence to demonstrate that sharing legal decision-making is in the child’s best interest. This may be a complicated legal process and require a substantial amount of work on the part of the parent with substance use disorder.

How Can a Lawyer Help in Divorces Involving Substance Abuse?

If you are divorcing your child’s other parent due in part to their abuse of drugs or alcohol, an Arizona family law attorney with Sullivan Law Office may be able to help protect you and your children from the deleterious effects of their other parent’s situation. Family law judges commonly see accusations of addiction and substance abuse aired during custody proceedings with limited or nonexistent material evidence to support the claims, so a judge will often require more objective, substantial evidence of the other parent’s drug or alcohol use.

Identifying and Presenting Evidence

A family law attorney may be able to guide a concerned parent through the process of collecting appropriate evidence supporting your claim of the other parent’s substance abuse and properly present it for the court’s consideration. An attorney familiar with Arizona law will likely also be in a position to draft appropriate motions, such as those asking the court to require the using parent to undergo drug testing before taking custody of the child, to help ensure that the child will not be entering an unsafe situation. Anattorney may also have other resources, like a private investigator, to help build a strong casecase.

Seeking Protective Orders

When a parent truly believes that their child is in danger when staying with their other parent, or if there is reason to believe the child’s other parent may be violent when under the influence of a controlled substance they regularly abuse, a  family law attorney may be able to help the concerned parent seek emergency protective orders for their children in divorce. The right options vary from one family to another, so working with an attorney who understands the situation may prove beneficial.

Do You Need Help in a Divorce Involving Substance Abuse?

Divorce can be a painful, stressful matter, even if the couple has no children. When a divorcing parent also has a substance abuse disorder, the divorce can be even more chaotic and contentious. If you are leaving your spouse because of their drug use or drinking, we can protect you and your child and give you personalized advice to keep yourself safe. If you are a newly sober parent and you wish to have more access to your child, we can help you with a new parenting plan, too. The family law attorneys at Sullivan Law Office provide professional and compassionate guidance and representation for divorces involving substance abuse. Call us today at (480) 719-2558 to learn how we may be able to help you protect your children in divorce and beyond.