Substance Use

Can a Mother Lose Custody for Drug Use?

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Mom’s and Drug Use: Can They Lose Custody?

In a child custody case, the judge will always rule in the child’s best interests — and that may mean legal custody is affected by a parent’s alcohol or drug use. The only way to minimize the effects of substance use on a custody arrangement is to actively seek help for the abuse problem and get on the road to recovery.

Is your family dealing with drug abuse? Let Zinnia Health answer your questions in a caring, confidential phone call. Call our helpline 24/7 at (855) 430-9439 to speak with our team of addiction treatment specialists.

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Types of Child Custody

The impact that substance use can have on the custody of your children depends on state laws and the type of arrangement you currently have or are seeking to secure. There are a few different forms of custody, including:

  • Legal custody: If you have legal custody over a child, you are responsible for making decisions regarding the child’s welfare, including medical care, school enrollment, and anything else that requires legal consent. If a parent’s drug or alcohol abuse is believed to impact their ability to make sound decisions, they could lose legal custody. 
  • Physical custody: If you have physical custody over a child, they will live with you. The other parent may still have visitation rights, and a social worker may be involved in arranging those visits. If a parent’s drug or alcohol abuse impacts their ability to provide a safe, supportive environment, they could lose physical custody.
  • Joint custody: If you have joint custody of your children, both parents share legal custody and physical custody, with the child moving between homes at specific intervals. If a parent’s substance abuse impacts their ability to provide proper care, they could lose joint custody rights.
  • Sole custody: If you have sole custody of your children, you are the only parent with physical and legal custody. They live only with you, and you make all decisions regarding their care. If a parent has substance abuse issues, the other parent may seek sole custody if they prove in court that the drug or alcohol use poses a risk to the child’s safety and well-being.

Custody can be split in many ways. For example, one parent may have sole physical custody, but both parents have joint legal custody. A family law court determines what is in the best interest of the child, and this ruling can change as the family dynamic evolves. 

Can Substance Abuse Affect Child Custody?

Parental rights can change over time, and if you or a family member is dealing with substance abuse, it can affect the custody of children. Alcohol or drug addiction can impact a parent’s ability to care for their children and indirectly impact the child’s academic, social, and family dynamics. 

During custody evaluations, Child Protective Services (CPS) looks for issues like:

  • Failure to uphold obligations as a parent, especially pertaining to work, home, and school responsibilities 
  • Risky behavior, such as driving while under the influence or inviting other substance users into the home where children are present 
  • Law-breaking behavior, such as possessing illicit substances
  • A history of substance abuse with recurring or persistent use, despite evidence of interpersonal or social challenges 

Ultimately, custody disputes come down to individual and state law, but substance abuse is certainly taken into account when determining what an appropriate custody order is for a family. 

When Will a Court Order Treatment for Drug Abuse?

Most states have a family treatment court (FTC), also known as a family drug court. These types of courts work with child welfare, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, and legal professionals to collaboratively address custody battles when one or both parents are dealing with substance abuse.

If substance abuse or other issues cause CPS to rule a home unsafe for a child, the child may be taken into foster care. This is a temporary arrangement while the family works to create a safe, stable environment with the goal of full reunification with their child. A child may also be placed into kinship care if a family member can provide a stable home while the child’s parent(s) seek treatment.

Are you worried about substance abuse affecting someone you love? Zinnia Health can connect you with answers and resources in your area. Speak to our team by calling (855) 430-9439 for a free, no-obligation conversation.

Does Enrolling in a Treatment Program Change Custody Decisions? 

Every case is different, but parents actively seeking treatment for substance abuse are more likely to see a favorable court ruling than if the substance abuse remains untreated. 

Whether or not a court requires you to enroll in a treatment program, providing evidence that you are drug-free can help retain custody or achieve reunification if you have lost custody. This may include:

  • Enrolling in an alcohol or drug treatment program 
  • Showing evidence of recovery, such as active participation in an aftercare program
  • Proving you remain drug- and alcohol-free with regular drug testing

What Is the Recovery Process Like for Parents?

If you or a loved one is dealing with substance abuse, getting treatment is critical to both the parent’s and child’s well-being. Professional intervention and support can help improve outcomes for parents and have a positive impact on families as a whole. 

Some of the special considerations for parents in rehab include:

  • Behavioral health counseling to address the underlying causes and triggers of substance use, helping parents achieve a substance-free life 
  • Family counseling to help heal relationships with the child’s support system, including the other parent  
  • Mental health treatment to address any co-occurring mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD, which could result from substance use or child custody battles

While overcoming drug use is never easy, parents can work toward more favorable custody terms if they find the right team of professionals to support them through the substance recovery journey. 

Do you have questions about recovery in your state? Zinnia Health can help. Call our 24/7 helpline at (855) 430-9439 to have a free, confidential conversation with our team of addiction specialists and get connected with resources in your area.

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