Substance abuse is an unfortunate but chilling reality in society today. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 48.7 million people ages 12 and older reported having a substance use disorder in 2022. Not only does substance abuse, which includes both drugs and alcohol, have a profound negative effect on the mental, physical, and emotional health of individuals, but it can also have a significant effect on families and relationships. One way in which substance abuse has a considerable impact is on child custody arrangements. Here, we will explore how and why substance abuse can impact child custody in a divorce.

Effects of Substance Abuse on an Individual 

In understanding why substance abuse is an important factor to take into consideration when looking at a child custody case, it is first important to understand the various detrimental effects that substance abuse can have on an individual. These include but are not limited to:

  • Impaired decision making
  • Emotional instability
  • Unpredictable behaviors and moods
  • Neglect for oneself and others
  • Physical violence
  • Engagement in risk
  • Withdrawal and relapse

Safety and Well-being of the Child

One of the most important aspects taken into account when determining child custody is the safety and well-being of the child. When a parent engages in substance abuse, they are likely to exhibit many of the aforementioned behaviors, which can put their children at risk. Additionally, those who have a history of substance abuse are also likely to have strained relationships with their children. For these reasons, substance abuse is taken into great consideration when determining child custody.

Proving Substance Abuse 

The specific laws and regulations to prove that your partner engages in substance abuse vary from state. Regardless of what state you are in, there must be some concrete evidence available to the court to prove and support your claims. Evidence may include:

  • Drug test results
  • Witness testimonies
  • Rehabilitation or treatment records
  • Any law enforcement convictions or run-ins relating to drugs or alcohol
  • Social media posts, texts, or voicemails
  • Medical records

If you are able to successfully prove that your partner engages in regular substance abuse, it is likely that you will be able to obtain majority or full custody of your child. 

Supervised Visitation 

If it has been shown that the substance abuser is taking proactive steps to wean off of the substances and sober up, the court may decide to allow for supervised visitation. Supervised visitation will allow the parent to spend time with their child while a neutral third party individual is present. The third party individual, also known as the “provider” will help ensure that the child is safe. 

Contact a Lawyer

If you are going through a divorce and either you or your partner is dealing with substance abuse issues, it is important to seek legal guidance from a lawyer. A Florida family law attorney can help you either prove or disprove substance abuse allegations and lead you to fair and just child custody arrangements.