Protecting Children During a Divorce With a Substance-Abusing Parent

How Substance Abuse Impacts Child Custody Orders In Arizona

 Substance abuse is taken seriously by Arizona family court. Addiction, substance abuse, and drug use have a major impact on child custody orders, including reducing legal decision-making authority and/or parenting time.

This is for multiple reasons, both to protect the children from potentially dangerous situations as well as give the substance-abusing parent an opportunity to address the issue. Our Arizona family law lawyers have extensive experience helping parents protect their children during the divorce process when the other parent is abusing controlled substances. We also help parents who suffer from addiction make steps toward restoring a healthy relationship with their children.

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What Is The Difference Between Addiction & Substance Abuse in Family Court?

Although Arizona law does not differentiate between addiction and substance abuse legally, your case may take different directions depending on which issue is the problem. In family court, addiction generally refers to people who are in treatment and taking steps to address their substance abuse and behavior. Although this does not change the court’s need to protect children from a potentially dangerous situations, it does make it easier to naturally set up safeguards for the children. Parents may be granted access to their children, parenting time, and joint custody upon successful completion of treatment.

In contrast, when one parent accuses the other of substance abuse, the other party is generally not seeking treatment for the issue. If the claims can be proven and the substance-abusing parent is unwilling to change their behavior, they are likely to face reduced parenting time or legal decision-making authority for their children.

Both addiction and substance abuse can affect family law cases, including divorce, child custody, or modification of previous orders. Your family attorneys will guide you through the process as you determine your legal options for moving forward.

How Does Substance Abuse Impact Child Custody Orders?

Substance abuse can impact both parenting time and legal decision-making. State law indicates that the courts will determine what is in the best interest of the child. If the court determines that a parent has abused drugs or alcohol, or finds a conviction for a drug offense within the previous 12 months, they may find a “rebuttable presumption” against that parent. This means that the court would presume it is not in the best interest of the child for that parent to have joint or sole authority to make legal decisions for the child. However, the parent with the substance abuse issue has the opportunity to challenge or “rebut” if they can provide evidence that joint legal decision-making is in the best interest of the child. 

This can become a long and complicated legal process. If you are trying to protect your children from a parent facing substance abuse issues, you need immediate representation and advice from a trusted Arizona child custody lawyer who will build a strong case on your behalf and help you put a plan in place.

How Do Arizona Family Law Courts Determine a Substance Abuse Issue?

Generally speaking, in order for the court to become aware of the substance abuse issue, someone will need to bring it to their attention. This usually happens when the other parent makes an allegation against the other. Unfortunately, family law courts see allegations frequently, many of which are false or exaggerated. This means that allegations alone are usually not enough to make any changes to child custody orders. You and your child custody lawyer will need to present evidence that supports your claims. 

One of the best ways to do this is to request drug testing, although one-time drug testing may not be sufficient to gather the evidence you need. Hiring a private investigator or other professional may help you provide the necessary evidence. Talk with your attorney about the testing and investigative options that you may have as you seek to protect your children.

How a Child Custody Attorney Can Help You Protect Your Children From a Substance Abusing Parent

Working with an experienced child custody attorney is one of the best ways to make a strong case to protect your children when the other parent is facing addiction or substance abuse. Our attorneys provide personalized plans and strategies for these situations. In some cases, we may request emergency protection orders to ensure your children’s physical safety and well-being. We may request drug testing, request supervision, and monitoring of the substance-abusing parent, and more.

In other cases, we may work with you to develop a plan that helps the substance-abusing parent obtain treatment and move toward a better relationship with your children. The right options will vary from one case to another, which is why an experienced attorney is essential for a good outcome in your case.

Protect Your Children By Consulting With An Experienced Family Law Lawyer

Protecting your children from a substance-abusing parent isn’t easy, but we can help! AZ Family Law Lawyers is a leading family law firm that will work with you to understand the details of your situation, and then develop plans and legal strategies based on our years of experience in the field. Let our trusted team of family law lawyers help you move forward with protection orders, separation, divorce, child custody arrangements, child support, and more as you look forward to a brighter future. Contact our firm today to schedule your obligation-free, confidential consultation with one of our attorneys!

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