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How can a parent's substance abuse issue affect custody?

 Posted on April 28, 2022 in Child Custody

Texas courts prioritize keeping both parents positively involved in children's lives when they divorce or separate. Under a custody order, a child usually lives primarily with one parent, but both typically receive joint custody and work together to make important decisions for their child.

However, when your former partner's drug or alcohol abuse or addiction puts your child's safety at risk, there are steps you can take to protect them by changing a child custody order. Texas law allows modifications when a material or substantial change occurs in the parent-child relationship.

How courts respond to substance abuse claims

Texas family courts generally take quick action when a co-parent's substance abuse problems affect their ability to care for their children. This applies to those who abuse illicit drugs or misuse prescription medications. How courts react typically depends upon when the issue is raised:

During a custody hearing

If you raise the concern about your co-parent before custody is determined, the judge will likely order an investigation to determine if the allegations are true. If they are valid, the court will also want to know if the parent's drug or alcohol use poses a threat to the child.

Texas follows the “best interest of the child” standard, which takes parenting fitness into account. If your former partner has a documented history of substance abuse, the judge may decide that you should have sole custody – called sole managing conservatorship in Texas.

After custody has been determined

If you report the substance abuse concern after a custody order is in effect, you and your lawyer can petition for a modification. Courts will first attempt to determine if the claims are true and if so, the judge can alter the custody agreement and possession order, which outlines parenting time.

In some cases, courts may order supervised visitation by the noncustodial parent. This can continue until they take action to deal with abuse or addiction problems and they are no longer considered a threat. Positive actions include undergoing substance abuse counseling or going into rehab.

Protect your children but seek legal advice promptly

As a parent, you only want to keep your child safe. If you have concerns that your former partner's substance abuse issues endanger your child's well-being, check out your legal options right away. You may be able to file a restraining order and request an emergency hearing regarding a custody modification. Hang onto any evidence, such as police reports or DUI charges to help your chances.

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