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When substance abuse by a parent poses a threat to the child

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2022 | Blog, Child Custody

Child custody and visitation can be a source of conflict for some parents in New Jersey. Even when both are focused on their children’s well-being, the parents might not agree on what those best interests are. When a parent is suspected of abusing alcohol or illegal substances or misusing prescribed drugs, the issues surrounding custody and visitation can become even more complicated.

Focusing on the best interest of the child

Custody and visitation decisions are made with the best interests of the child as the primary standard. To decide this, courts consider a variety of factors including:

  • The age, physical and mental well-being, and the wishes of the child
  • Each parent’s physical and mental health and parenting fitness
  • The bond the child has with each parent
  • The family dynamics
  • Past or current allegations of sexual abuse, domestic abuse, child neglect or substance abuse

A central part of the best interests of the child relates to the safety of the child. If the court investigates allegations of abuse and finds that these allegations are true, sole custody might be awarded to the other parent. In cases of visitation, the parent might lose those rights or be ordered to have supervised visitation.

The threat to the child

Alcohol and substance abuse can affect a parent’s ability to take care of their child. If this happens, there is an increased risk that the child could be harmed. Once custody is affected, the parent would have to prove that the situation has changed, perhaps by showing that they participated in a rehabilitation program and attended counseling, to regain custody or visitation.

It is best to report suspicions of substance abuse to the court or state for investigation, but some cases might warrant immediate action. While you should follow the custody and visitation order, if you are concerned about the risk to your child’s safety, you might refuse visitation and seek a restraining order for your child.