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Substance abuse and child custody

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan have extensive experience in this field of substance abuse and child custody. Not only are we fortunate enough to be able to have worked with thousands of families across southeast Texas, but we have done so under extreme conditions involving families just like yours. When it comes to substance abuse, we know what it takes to achieve favorable outcomes for kids and parents alike. Today’s blog post will focus on that subject.

Emotional does not begin to describe what a substance abuse family law case looks and feels like for a family. We have walked side by side with families just like yours and we want you to know that we are not attorneys who sit by and shout advice from the stands while you do all the work on the playing field. Rather, we suit up with you, strap on our helmets, and get into the game alongside you. We pride ourselves on the results that we win for our clients and that is how we measure success as a law office. What you can walk away from your child custody with is a sense of pride knowing that you gave it your all and have positive results to show for it.

Whether you are the parent who has a substance abuse problem, or you are the parent who has concerns about a co-parent’s substance abuse issues, we want you to know that there are avenues to take and preferred methods to employ that can help you solve whatever custody issues you are facing. Of course, every family is different, and every circumstance is different. However, we at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are going to provide you with a quick guide to substance abuse in child custody cases here in today’s blog post.

If you have additional questions about this material or any other in Texas family law, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Office of Bryan Fagan for a free-of-charge consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys. We don't back down from a challenge and we walk side by side with our clients through whatever circumstances are present in your life. We don’t take for granted the ability to go out and serve our community and our clients.

What matters in a substance abuse, child custody case

The most important factor for you to consider in a child custody case involving substance abuse is the best interests of your child. Now, I know as a parent this is what you are aiming for when it comes to the decisions you make for your child. All other things being equal of course you want what is best for your children. However, even well-meaning parents can sometimes let other factors in their lives impact how they parent. If you have had a problem with addiction that does not mean that you cannot be a good parent moving forward.

However, what it does mean is that you have some challenges that you need to overcome when it comes to how you parent your children and how you conduct yourself. You may need to get involved with a substance abuse group, class, or therapy. You may need to change your habits as far as what you eat, where you go, and who you associate with. There are so many different factors at play when you think about your life and who you are as a parent and as a person with an addiction.

On the other hand, you may be the parent who does not have a substance abuse issue but are concerned about your co-parent battling through an addiction. There is a double layer of potential heartache surrounding this subject if you are also going through a divorce from your spouse due to their substance abuse issues. Whatever the case may be just know that we at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to support you through this. Primarily, we are here as your legal advocate and that is what we are going to be providing you throughout your time as a client if you decide to speak to us about representing you in a divorce or child custody case.

Without a doubt, having a parent with a substance abuse issue will negatively impact the life of a child. Even if you think that you manage your addiction or hide the problem with your children well that does not mean that you necessarily do. Even if your child is never exposed to drugs, alcohol, prescription medicines, or anything else, that does not mean that the side effects of those addictions are not exhibited by you in your daily life. How you work, dress, talk and parent are all impacted by your addiction. Do not underestimate the impact of these issues on your life and do not overestimate your ability to hide or minimize the harms that exist because of your addiction.

The well-being of your child is a crucial component of their best interests. When we consider their well-being what we are thinking about is what is in their best interests now and in the future. This can be a difficult concept to think about because while you are going through a divorce you may have trouble even thinking beyond next week. All you want to do is get through the stresses of the divorce or child custody case in one piece. However, it is also a good idea for you to be able to have a plan and be aware of what the best interests of your child look like and how to plan for those situations.

Make no mistake- family courts take these sorts of issues related to substance abuse very seriously. Do not assume that you are going to get the custody arrangement that you want only because you are the spouse who does not have an addiction. By the same token, do not assume that you are going to get as much time with your children as you are seeking just because you have settled into an Alcoholics Anonymous therapy group. Rather, you need to be prepared to present your case and be the parent who can show a court why you are best suited to be the primary conservator or at least a consistent caregiver for your child.

Let's say that you are a mother of two small children who are going through a divorce right now. Your life has been turned on its head and you are trying to figure out how to manage all the challenges that come along with a divorce while parenting two small kids. On top of these challenges, you must come to grips with an addition held by your husband which led you to this point. While the addiction was a problem earlier in your marriage it has now because of a full-on force for bad outcomes. Your children have noticed the addiction and it is impacting their relationship with your husband. To prevent any additional harm from occurring to your kids you have decided to file for divorce. Beyond that, you have no plan at all.

What you may want to ask yourself is how would a Texas family court view this situation. What are the key factors that a court would look to? Do you have a plan in mind as far as how you are going to care for your children without the income and support of your spouse? What will a potential visitation schedule look like for your husband while he battles the addiction and attempts to remain sober? If you do not have a firm idea about how to first negotiate with your spouse on these subjects and then possibly submit evidence to a court concerning these issues then you are at a distinct disadvantage. Working with an experienced family law attorney is the best way to approach this subject and come up with a practical plan in the best interests of your children.

Addiction is an even bigger part of your life than you may suspect

Even if you are in the position to acknowledge that your addiction has become an important part of your life, you may not be able to honestly assess just how much the addiction has impacted your relationship with your children. Whether it is something as small as wanting to take a nap rather than play outside with the kids to something major like losing your job consistently due to the addiction, parents like yourself face critical issues and decisions when it comes to balancing sobriety, addiction, and parenting. The tough part is your addiction is not going to take a break just because you are going through a child custody case. For that matter, neither are your children. All these interests will be competing at the same time for your attention. How you manage those competing interests will determine the outcome of your family law case.

Unfortunately, one of the major effects of an addiction or substance abuse problem is that your visitation with your children may be limited as a result. Parents can have all the best of intentions but if you cannot manage to control your addiction and put your child first for an extended period it is unlikely that you will be able to work through a child custody case and have anything resembling a standard amount of visitation. The simple truth is that if you cannot trust yourself to make good decisions for yourself, then nobody can trust you to make good decisions for your children. For this reason, the earlier you can assess your problems, work out plans to meet those problems, and then present evidence to a court that you are meeting the problems head-on the more you have a chance to end up with a good outcome when it comes to child custody proceedings.

For instance, marijuana is a drug that has increasingly become mainstream in recent decades. Many states have legalized the possession and use of marijuana. Texas, however, is not one of those states. Possession of marijuana is illegal in Texas. It does not matter if you purchased the drug in a state where marijuana is legal. If you are caught with marijuana in Texas, then you are subject to criminal penalties. We can debate the impacts of marijuana use on your health and decision-making abilities all day and all night. However, I think we can all agree that smoking marijuana does impact your mindset and your ability to make decisions- especially when it comes to your children. Even if you smoke marijuana for pain purposes this may not be the “get out of jail free card” that you may imagine that it is.

Having impaired judgment is a key symptom or side effect of marijuana. Being unable to decide what to do in the daily life of your child can be bad enough. However, imagine a situation where your child was injured while you were in an altered state. How would you be able to manage to care for your child? Could you get behind the wheel with your child in the vehicle? What about talking to medical professionals to describe what happened? Would your reflexes be good enough to prevent an accident from occurring? These are the sort of questions that you need to ask yourself when it comes to caring for your child while you were intoxicated or in an altered mental state of any kind.

If you are a parent who does not have a substance abuse problem this is still a subject that you need to concern yourself with given that you would need to prove that your co-parent has an issue with substance abuse and that issue has impeded their ability to parent your child. This is a major issue given that you cannot simply bring a camera with photos to court and hold the phone up to the judge's face. Rather, you will be allowed to introduce evidence into the record in either a trial or hearing but the opposing party will also have an opportunity to object to that evidence on various grounds.

How would you respond to an objection from an opposing attorney which was made to prevent an item from being introduced into your court case? What if a photograph was particularly damning for your co-parent but your opposing counsel was successful in blocking it from being introduced? These are the sort of questions that you will need to ask yourself. Being prepared to deal with the moving pieces which are a part of this process is something that many people do not think about very much but is critically important, nonetheless.

Being able to determine how to present witness testimony, prepare witnesses before their testimony, organize a case, negotiate with your opposing attorney, and respond to a judge’s questions are all part of being able to adequately represent yourself in court. This does not mean that you are guaranteed to go before a judge, but it does mean that you need to be prepared for that outcome. If you are looking around the room for help with those questions, then that would be normal. There is no reason for you to need to know that sort of thing in your daily life. However, a divorce or child custody trial is not a daily activity.

Additionally, having an experienced family law attorney by your side can assist you when it comes to helping you get back on the right track for your health and well-being during and after a family law case. For instance, our office has worked with many men and women who have had substance abuse problems in the past. Therefore, we have resources that we can point you towards in terms of helping you gain a level of sobriety and do what it takes to improve your relationship with your children in the process. Not only that, but these classes may also be necessary for you to gain the level of custody that you would like. Building up to more custody time with your children may be necessary and we can guide you through that process as well.

No matter what your specific situation is the attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help you. Contact us today and you will be able to see what it means when we say that we have the heart of a teacher when it comes to educating and preparing our clients for their cases.

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