Substance Abuse and Child Custody

In a highly contested child custody dispute, each parent may try and bring up as many negative factors about the other to try and get primary custody. In some cases, the parent may have real concerns about the other parent's ability to provide a safe environment because of substance abuse problems. However, the other parent can just as easily exaggerate or make up false claims of drug or alcohol use that can be difficult to defend against. 

It is important to understand how substance abuse can affect a child custody case, how past criminal charges can still impact you, and how to challenge false claims of substance abuse. If you have any questions about substance abuse claims and child custody hearings in North Carolina, contact Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC today.  

How Can Substance Abuse Affect Child Custody 

When parents are separating or getting a divorce, they need to determine how child custody, child support, and visitation will be divided. When the parents cannot agree to a common child custody plan, the court may intervene to decide child custody and visitation rights

According to North Carolina statute § 50-13.2, in determining child custody, the courts will evaluate “what will best promote the interest and welfare of the child.” There are a number of factors that go into this decision, which may include (but are not limited to):

  • Each parent's physical, emotional and psychological ability to adequately care for the child;
  • The child's relationship with each parent;
  • The ability of each parent to provide a stable home environment for the child;
  • A parent's use of excessive discipline, emotional abuse, or neglect; 
  • A parent's history of physical abuse or domestic violence; and/or
  • Any evidence of either parent's relation to drug, alcohol, or sexual abuse.

The court may consider how substance abuse can affect a child's safety, the parent's ability to care for the child, if the home environment is stable, the potential for abuse or neglect, or how drugs or alcohol can impact a young child. 

My Ex Has a Problem with Substance Abuse  

If the other parent has a problem with substance abuse, bringing up this information during a child custody hearing may help protect your child. It may also help the other parent seek out the help and support they need in order to become a more responsible and caring parent. If you have concerns about substance abuse in the other parent's household, talk to your family lawyer about the best way to address these issues. 

My Ex is Accusing Me of Substance Abuse  

If the other parent is accusing you of substance abuse, you need to take these claims seriously and communicate with your lawyer to understand how to address these issues, defend against false claims, and provide a clear picture to the court that you can provide a safe and stable environment for your child. 

Do not retaliate against your ex or get into a fight over false claims of alcohol or drug problems because this can escalate the dispute and make matters worse. It is best to with any false claims through the court. 

Alcohol Use and Child Custody

Alcohol is one of the most commonly used “drugs” in the United States. Most people have no problem enjoying a drink or two with no adverse effects on their health, personal life, or family. However, alcohol abuse can be very destructive and harmful to the individual and those around them. Alcohol abuse by a parent or other family member can pose a risk to the children. 

For example, a parent who has an alcohol problem may have ended up drinking too much before going to pick up their child from baseball practice. The parent may feel sober enough to drive, but on the way home gets into a car accident because the parent was impaired, risking injury or death to the child. 

Other serious alcohol addiction problems can result in the parent not being able to provide a stable home for the child, using money to pay for alcohol instead of providing for the child, or be unable to maintain a job because of alcohol problems.  

Drug Use and Child Custody

Drug uses can involve the additional risk of criminal charges as well as health and medical problems. Drug use is often kept a secret from others, which may make it more difficult to prove that a parent is abusing drugs. Drug use and abuse that affects child custody can include both legal and illegal drugs. 

Prescription Drug Use

Even though prescription drugs are prescribed by a medical professional and are intended to treat medical issues, there is still a high potential for abuse with some drugs. Opioids like oxycodone and fentanyl can be highly addictive. This may lead to a parent prioritizing the drugs over care for their children, criminal activity, or lead a parent unable to care for their child. 

Illegal Drug Use

Illegal drug use, including marijuana, involves the risk of criminal charges or criminal activity in a parent's household. When a child is in a household where drugs are kept or consumed, the court may consider that to be a problem for the overall wellbeing of the child. 

Criminal Charges Relating to Drug or Alcohol Abuse

Criminal charges relating to drug use or alcohol abuse can be used as evidence in the family court that the parent has a problem with substance abuse. When a parent has been arrested before related to drug or alcohol issues, the court may believe there is the potential for it to happen again. 

When an individual had a single offense, sought substance abuse counseling after the incident, or the criminal charge occurred many years ago, the court may not consider a single criminal charge as important. However, multiple charges, recent drug or alcohol charges, or criminal charges that involved a child are taken much more seriously. 

Criminal charges relating to drug or alcohol abuse that could impact a child custody case may include: 

Challenging False Drug Use Claims

It can be frustrating dealing with an ex who is accusing you of drug abuse in order to get custody. Making false accusations against another parent is not in the child's best interests. False accusations do not encourage a healthy relationship with both parents and the court may take this into consideration. Talk to your family law attorney about ways to counter false charges of drug or alcohol abuse. 

Social Media as Evidence of Substance Abuse

Even without criminal charges related to drug or alcohol abuse, parents challenging child custody may turn to social media for evidence against the other parent. Images showing an occasional party or celebration, or drinking a beer will not likely trigger any concern. However, regular posts related to drinking to excess, illegal drug use, or substance around children may be taken more seriously. 

These images, videos, and posts can be taken out of context and make it appear the individual has a substance abuse problem. Talk to your child custody lawyer about any past social media activity that you think might come back to haunt you and how to address these concerns. 

Child Custody Lawyers in North Carolina  

It can be stressful for a parent to face false allegations of substance abuse when they only want the best for their child. The experienced North Carolina family law attorneys at Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC will help you through the entire process. Contact us in Shelby today for a free initial consultation.