Substance abuse can ultimately destroy even the best marriage — especially when your spouse’s addiction begins to take its toll on your children.
Unfortunately, the problems that you face with your spouse don’t end with divorce. You still have to find a way to manage the issues that their addiction present when it comes to custody or visitation.
What can you do to protect your children when their other parent is an addict?
Tell your attorney
Make sure that you advise your attorney early about your spouse’s drug addiction. That way, your attorney can raise the issue during the child custody hearing.
You should expect the judge to view your allegation somewhat skeptically. Some parents make false allegations of drug abuse or alcoholism to try to gain an edge during a custody battle.
If you have any documented evidence of your spouse’s past substance abuse, including arrest records, make sure that you give it to your attorney in advance. If not, expect the judge to order an investigation to see if the allegations are true.
Ask for supervised visitation
The courts generally consider it a positive thing for children to have contact with both parents — even if that contact has to be limited. Asking that the court impose supervised visits instead of stripping the other parent of all visitation with the children demonstrates the fact that you are acting out of concern for your children’s safety — not vindictiveness.
Supervised visitation is reasonable to request during the time the court is investigating the allegations of addiction. In addition, consider asking the court to impose mandatory drug or alcohol screenings as a further condition. That way, you know your spouse won’t be around the children when he or she is intoxicated or high.
Find a family therapist
You need to find an outlet for your own feelings about your spouse’s addiction — and you need someone to help your children understand the way that addiction affects a person’s behavior. In particular, the children may wonder why their other parent can’t simply put down the alcohol or drugs in order to be there for them. A therapist can help you and your children handle the emotions involved and heal.
Custody disputes are never easy, but recognize that you’re doing what you have to do to ensure your children’s futures.