Child Visitation When Substance Abuse is an Issue

  1. Child Custody
  2. Child Visitation When Substance Abuse is an Issue

Drug and alcohol abuse can destroy a relationship. Addiction issues can create an emotional roller coaster for a couple through trust issues, recovery and relapse, impaired judgment, intimacy issues, abusive behavior, and wasteful spending on the addiction. When a couple has children, layers are added to the problem. To put it mildly, addiction can also have a detrimental impact on children.

Any Child Protective Services caseworker will tell you about the many harms that they see befall children whose parents use drugs including some of the following:

  • Exposure to drugs and children testing positive to drugs;
  • Neglect;
  • Physical abuse while impaired;
  • Domestic violence;
  • Allowing harmful people around the children;
  • Impaired driving with the children in the vehicle; and
  • Instability for the children due to arrests and incarcerations.

Child Custody and Safety

North Carolina’s child custody laws are designed to promote a continuing relationship between a parent and child; however, in doing so courts must also focus on a child’s safety by taking into account “mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, or any other factor the court deems appropriate.” Judges take child safety seriously and are aware of the harm that a parent’s drug abuse can create for a child.

In a child custody proceeding, courts consider a parent’s drug or alcohol dependency, and judges have the discretion to impose severe restrictions and limitations on a parent’s custody rights, visitation, and access to the child. This comes from the wide latitude that judges have to make decisions based on the best interest of the child. In extreme cases, evidence of a parent’s addiction may support the termination of parental rights.

Restricted and Conditional Visitation

Courts may order visitation that is conditioned on a parent demonstrating they have refrained from drug or alcohol use. A court may order a parent with an addiction to a controlled substance to complete some form of treatment and submit to drug testing to visit with the child. Alternatively, a parent with an alcohol addiction may be ordered to abstain from consuming alcohol and submit to an alcohol monitoring system as a condition of visitation or possession of a child. A third party may supervise this conditional visitation.

If a parent demonstrates a genuine commitment to treatment and sobriety, the court may modify and expand a parent’s visitation and access. Courts want to be confident in these decisions and may consider a parent’s proof of treatment, proof of therapy, the input of the child’s therapist, and the desires of the child. In essence, courts want to know that a parent can safely care for their child and want to allow more frequent contact, as that is usually in the child’s best interest.

Let New Direction Family Law Assist You

If you are experiencing child custody or visitation issues, you need to speak with an attorney. At New Direction Family Law, our attorneys provide high-quality family law representation to men and women in North Carolina. Our attorneys are experienced, knowledgeable, and effective advocates for parents seeking safety, certainty, and stability for their children. Let us help you. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.

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