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Addiction can play a role in determining custody

Custody issues within a context related to divorce or child custody cases in Texas are among the most difficult to manage. The reason being is that there are so many moving pieces associated with custody cases that it is like having to spin 10 dinner plates on the tips of each of your fingers. Being able to keep all of them in the air without breaking one would be extremely difficult to manage. For this reason, I always think it is a good idea for you to be aware of the issues that may arise in your own case so that you can better plan and prepare for them. 

The irony of custody issues within a Texas family law case is that the word custody does not appear in the Texas family code even once. However, everyone uses that term to describe any issues that relate to children in the context of a legal case. Custody means everything from conservatorships rights and duties, child support, Visitation, possession and access. These are the more specific and legal terms that you may hear in Association with a divorce or child custody case as they relate to children. However, attorneys and clients alike will use the term trustee with greater frequency. 

How can you best prepare for a trusting matter when there are so many different topics to pay attention to? When we think about custody issues, we are considering the most intimate and important issues related to your children and your family. On top of that, many times we also have to consider family circumstances that are specifically important to your case. One of the issues that I find is most difficult for families to manage with in a custody case is that of addiction on behalf of one of the parents. 

Addiction problems are especially difficult to manage for several reasons. First of all, when a parent is addicted to a substance, whether that be alcohol, prescription medications, drugs or any other substance, a child is invariably placed into danger if and when that parent is responsible for the care of that child. I've spoken with a handful of parents who either have addiction problems themselves or perhaps have a partner or a new spouse who do and those parents will do everything under the sun to try and tell me that their situation is unique and their substance abuse and addiction problems do not pose a threat to the children.  

For example, I can recall a case from several years ago where a mother was dealing with a child custody case filed by her children's father. One of the main reasons why the children's father filed this custody case was because he learned that the mother’s boyfriend was using drugs in the home while the children were present. When I spoke to our client about this issue, she was adamant that the boyfriend only used his particular substance of choice when the children were asleep and in the backyard by himself, outside the home. What do you think a family court judge would say about a situation like this? 

Drug use cry a parent in the home is a serious matter. The entire reason why we don't allow children to have complete autonomy over themselves until they reach a certain age is because it is believed, and is true, that children are unable to make decisions for themselves until they reached a certain point of maturity and development. Children lack experience in the real world, knowledge of their complete surroundings as well as a less refined sense of right and wrong. Instead, we rely on their parents to make decisions for children until the children are older. 

Avoiding situations where potential harm can befall a child is a big part of the responsibilities that a parent has in relation to children. Parents need to be levelheaded in clearheaded when it comes to assessing potential risk to their child helping the child avoid an unnecessarily high degree of risk in their daily lives. If a parent come up or their partner is addicted to a mind-altering substance, then it would be he responsible for a family court judge to not take that into account when determining parental rights and duties. 

Parents in the situation described above faced by our fan former client I would argue that it is not themselves who engages in Substance abuse or addiction in that they would never be tempted in doing so. However, any person who has lived in the real world and been exposed to temptation of this sort would tell you that it can be very difficult to maintain sobriety in clear thinking in an environment where substance abuse and addiction is ongoing. Keeping your children safe from dangerous substances in persons who are under the influence is obviously an important aspect of parenting. Showing the judgment necessary to eliminate unnecessary risk in your daily life for your children Is a basic part of parenting.

 With all this said, you may be asking yourself how addiction will impact your own child custody case, if at all. That is what I would like to spend the second half of today's blog post discussing with you all. If substance abuse and addiction is a problem in your family, then you will want to pay attention to the remainder of this blog post. We have to walk through how substance abuse is handled within the context of a child custody case and what its final impacts on your case may end up being.

How a quart is likely to handle addiction in substance abuse in your divorce or child custody case 

The information I provided to you in the earlier section of today's blog post is important because it allows you an opportunity to understand what substance abuse is, how addiction Can Impact your ability to parent as well as touching on the fact that substance abuse and addiction Can become a major issue within a child custody case. The second half of today's blog post will discuss more about how these issues May impact your specific case. 

From the outset of your case, you should expect that any past or present evidence of substance abuse or addiction will become an issue in your case. It doesn't matter if there were addiction problems started a long time ago and are now being dealt with through treatment and therapy or if the addiction problems are ongoing. The reality of a custody case is that these are the type of subjects that can swing the outcome of the case a great deal. 

As a result, your co-parent will make this issue known to the court from the beginning of the case. This does not mean that you will be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to custody issues for the duration of your case, but it does mean that There will be a heightened level of scrutiny surrounding this subject when it comes to your custody case. At the beginning of the case you will likely be ordered to be drug tested or alcohol tested if there are concerns about an ongoing addiction problem. Costs for the drug tested may be your responsibility, the responsibility of your co-parent or split between both of you. 

The results of the drug test will determine how Visitation and possession issues are handled at the outset of your child custody or divorce case. If you test negative for any substance, then you will likely be able to have possession based on Whatever other factors are present in your case. However, if you test positive for a substance then it is likely that you will be ordered to have only supervised or extremely limited amounts of Visitation and possession time with your children Until later in your case. 

I can recall a case from a few years ago where a client of ours tested positive for a number of drugs at the outset of her divorce case. This did not come as a shock to anyone, but it did mean that our client was ordered to have only limited times of possession with her daughter during the first few months of the case. I can tell you that this was a difficult transition for our client who was used to being around her daughter much more frequently. However, would it allowed her to do was to begin the sobriety process, start working with a therapist and focus on what was most important in her life. 

By the end stages of her case, our client had tested negative for any illegal substance on multiple occasions and eventually was able to win split custody of her daughter with her husband. There were other factors that weighed in on her case, just like there will be other factors that weigh in on your own case, but the fact of the matter is that you and your case will be impacted most significantly by this substance abuse issue. 

What happens if your addiction problems were in the distant past? 

This is a question that I received from people going through family law cases all the time. It doesn't just have to be about custody problems, either. Many people have arrests from decades ago, problems with debt from years ago, substance abuse issues that date back decades or many issues in their lives that people have been able to successfully put behind them. However, the beginning of a divorce or child custody case can cause many people to be concerned that these past issues will rear their ugly heads during the course of their case. 

While addiction and substance abuse is a serious issue , if you have not engaged in Abuse of substances in quite a long time, have never exposed your children to any substances, and are seeking consistent help for these problems then The issue is much less likely to be a factor in your divorce case. Taking responsibility for your past actions is a key part to this. If a family court judge identify that you have already taking steps to control the problem and minimize the impact on your relationship to your children, then that is a good place for you to start. 

Be aware that your co-parent contempt to make a past addiction issue more of a subplot in your current family law case then it needs to be. Resist the temptation to believe that family law cases can be swung by decades old allegations of drug use or substance abuse. Most family court judges are reasonable and want to balance past problems in your life with the need to protect your children. If you have taken responsibility for your actions and are doing everything within your power to manage your addictions and keep your children safe, then the odds are that your addiction problems will not impact your custody case all that much. 

The last thing I will mention to you today is that if you have addiction as a part of your child custody case, you should seek experienced representation in order to help you handle these problems. Even if the issues are in your distant past that does not mean that they won't be at least somewhat of an issue in your current child custody or divorce case. I recommend that you speak to and consult with a family law attorney who was help people in your situation before. Going about a divorce or child custody case in your circumstances without an attorney is not a good idea, in my opinion.

Questions about the material presented in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material presented in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about Texas family law and about the services that our office provides to our clients.