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Domestic Violence

Substance Abuse in Family Law

No matter your circumstances, chances are you know someone who struggles with or someone who has struggled with, substance abuse issues. Now for that person, the substance abuse issues are severe enough. However, substance abuse issues can be all the more difficult in the realm of domestic relations cases, especially if there are kids involved. Today’s article is discussing substance abuse, how courts handle it, and how it can affect domestic relations cases.

When It Doesn’t Matter

As disheartening as it may be to hear, your partner’s substance abuse issues may not be particularly relevant in your case. Substance abuse is far less likely to be relevant in cases not involving children. The reason for this is simple: in situations with no children, when the court issues its final orders, you will no longer be attached to your spouse/partner/etc. Therefore, while substance abuse may be severe and it may have caused serious troubles in your relationship. Once the connection terminates, you’re free from the burden. Now, this isn’t to say that substance abuse will never be relevant in divorce–just that it’s less frequently relevant.

When It Does Matter

Now when you bring kids into the picture, substance abuse issues become significantly more critical. In this situation, the Court is called upon to determine what is in the best interests of the child(ren) for allocations of parenting time and when settling decision-making responsibilities. The court must consider whether a parent’s substance abuse will negatively impact their ability to parent, and if so, to what extent.

Impact on Responsibilities

Probably the most critical way in which substance abuse can affect a case is about allocations of parental responsibilities. For parenting time, a person grappling with substance abuse issues will often have their parenting restricted in some manner. Usually, this will take the form of either: (1) supervised parenting time with a licensed professional; or (2) severely limited parenting time until the parent demonstrates a consistent pattern of sobriety and/or progress towards sobriety.

Courts & Abuse

The courts are no stranger to dealing with issues of substance abuse. Whether a parent is using drugs, alcohol, or some combination of the two, the court has heard it all before. Because the courts are so frequently called upon to handle substance issues, there are some everyday actions the court is likely to take.


The court will often order the parent with substance issues to undergo an assessment with a qualified professional. Frequently, the court will additionally require the parent to comply with recommendations made under the substance evaluation.


In addition to some form of evaluation and/or counseling, the court will frequently want assurances of the parent’s rehabilitative progress. This translates to testing of some sort — BAC monitoring, urinalysis, hair follicle tests, or any other number of technologies.

Moving Forward

As the substance abuser demonstrates their compliance, progress, or rehabilitation, a court will frequently provide for the ability to “earn back” greater parental rights. Usually, this will take the form of removing supervision, providing for more frequent parenting time, or introducing overnight visits. However, the courts are aware that people with substance issues frequently relapse. Therefore, it’s important to recognize how falling off the wagon may drastically (and swiftly) reduce your parental responsibilities.

Substance Abuse in Your Divorce?

Addiction and substance abuse are taken very seriously by the courts when children are involved. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, we encourage you to seek appropriate help. Beyond getting help, if a former partner’s addiction issues are negatively impacting your children, it would be wise to speak with an attorney. At Modern Family Law, we dedicate our practice to the area of family law. Our attorneys have the skill and knowledge to help you with your case. We provide consultations with our attorneys at no charge. So pick up the phone and contact us today to speak with one of our attorneys.

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