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custody and substance use

Custody Issues and Substance Use Disorder

When deciding how to handle custodial rights and responsibilities after a divorce, judges must consider what is best for a child’s health, safety and welfare. In a judge’s eyes, addiction issues can impair your ability to provide for your child’s needs, and fears about losing custody may make you hesitant to admit you have a drug or drinking problem. Here’s what you need to understand about custody rights and substance use disorders.

What Is Custody?

Custody refers to your legal right to take care of your child and make decisions about their upbringing. However, the notion that a judge always awards full custody rights and control to one parent while the other merely gets visitation rights is somewhat outdated.

In recent years, many states have revised their child custody laws to allow more consistent involvement of both parents in a child’s life in hopes of better overall outcomes for all parties. Some states have even started using terms like “parental responsibility” and “parenting time” instead of the words “custody” and “visitation.”

How to Maintain Custody of Your Children

Judges in child custody cases want to see parents taking responsibility for their actions. If you are living with an untreated substance use disorder and worry about how it may affect your parental rights, enrolling yourself in an accredited treatment program will demonstrate your commitment to making a positive change for your children.

Your custody agreement’s terms may require you to participate in ongoing education and therapy, attend 12-step meetings or undergo random drug screenings. Do everything asked of you, and make sure to get documentation to prove you are working hard to avoid relapsing and continue making progress toward your recovery. If you can provide concrete evidence or testimony from your counselor showing you are making significant strides to live a sober lifestyle, there’s a better chance the judge will consider joint custody for you and your co-parent.

In custody cases, it’s also possible to request a modification from the court if your family’s needs change or you have made a significant improvement in managing your disease. Each state’s laws differ on this, so you’d be wise to do some research and consult with an experienced divorce attorney.

Addiction Is a Family Disease

Frequently, the devastating effects of substance abuse extend to entire families, and can be especially hard on young children who may not fully understand the issues involved. Use your children’s well-being as your primary motivation to seek help for your substance abuse. You want them to grow up feeling loved and supported, surrounded by positive role models.

When you finally stop denying that your substance use is out of control and you need to seek help, you will give yourself a chance to make a fresh start in life. At the same time, you also need to recognize you aren’t the only person your addiction has affected. Your entire family will feel the pain, too. Going to treatment gives you the chance to heal and move forward together.

At Vista Taos Renewal Center, we have helped hundreds of men and women struggling with substance use disorders of all kinds. We provide holistic, individualized care in a therapeutically rich environment. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.

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