A lot of people in the nation are struggling with drug addiction — and parents aren’t immune to the problem. The problem can be bad enough when only one parent suffers from an addiction. When both parents are addicted, however, other family members can be forced to seek custody of the minor children.
If you think that you may soon have to ask a court to grant you custody of a family member’s children, you need to take some steps to strengthen your case. Otherwise, custody may go to someone else — and that can compound your sense of frustration and grief.
Get involved now
Judges tend to favor relatives who have a pre-existing relationship with the children before they pursue custody. Get involved with your relatives’ lives and make sure that you’re staying connected with the kids. Take them overnight, if possible. Familiarize yourself with their school routine and social activities. This helps cement your case as the right person for custody later.
Document your involvement
You need to build a paper trail that shows your involvement. You may feel guilty doing it, knowing that you’ll probably use the records in court, but it’s necessary. Keep a log and document your phone calls, visits, what you buy for the kids and where you take them. Keep receipts and take plenty of photos. If you never actually have to request custody, you’ll just be building memories.
Document the problems with the parents
Drug-addicted parents frequently have trouble managing the basics of child care. You need to take note of everything that could demonstrate their unfitness to the court, including things like the general state of their home, the lack of food in the cupboards, absences from school, missed doctor’s appointments and any periods of time where the children have been abandoned to the care of others while the parents disappeared.
You may not have to approach the court about custody — it’s always possible the court will approach you after the parents are arrested or reported for neglect. However, you also need to be prepared to pursue the question of custody if the children are left on your doorstep or the parents clearly become able to cope. The more prepared you are for that possibility, the easier it will be in court.
Source: Divorce Magazine, “The Opioid Crisis: Protecting Children from Addicted Parents,” Danielle M. Skestos, March 26, 2018