Substance abuse is a rampant problem in Indiana and across the U.S. Millions of Americans struggle with substance abuse disorders involving alcohol or drugs. While it is a common problem, a parent’s addiction issues can also result in negative consequences for child custody and visitation rights when they are brought to the attention of the court.
Allegations of alcohol or drug abuse during a child custody case
Allegations of a parent’s drug or alcohol abuse are sometimes raised while a child custody case is pending by the non-using parent. When these types of allegations are made, the court will order an investigation to determine their validity. In some cases, the issue is brought to the court’s attention by one parent. In others, reports might be made to the Indiana Department of Child Services about the safety of the children when they are in the care of the substance-abusing parent.
If the family law judge determines the allegations are valid and that the child is in danger while in the parent’s care, it might do the following things:
- Only allow the substance-abusing parent supervised visitation
- Grant sole legal decision-making authority to the other parent
- Limit the substance-abusing parent’s visitation rights
Allegations made after custody orders have issued
If a parent begins abusing drugs or alcohol after the court has issued custody orders, the other parent can file a motion with the court requesting a modification of the court’s custody and visitation orders. If the court finds that the allegations are valid, it might change the custody and visitation orders to restrict the addicted parent’s visits, change them to supervised visits only, and not restore their visitation rights until they have completed alcohol and drug treatment and can demonstrate they have made changes and no longer pose a danger to their children.
Parents who struggle with addiction should seek treatment to avoid the loss or restriction of their custody rights. Children deserve to be safe and well-cared for when they are with either of their parents. When a parent’s substance abuse problem impacts the quality of care they provide to their children, the other parent can bring the problem to the court’s attention to protect their children.