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When addiction interferes with child custody

It’s hard to reconcile addiction with competent parenting. Many alcoholics and addicts struggle mightily with their demons while retaining custody of their minor kids. But it’s a sad fact that those who are most impacted by the struggle are the children.

An addict’s struggles may only publicly surface when there is a change in their relationship status. A spouse may file for divorce or an intimate partner may end the relationship over the addict’s continuing to use alcohol or drugs. That partner or spouse may then petition the court for custody, citing the addict’s lack of fitness as a parent.

Does that mean that those addicted to drugs or alcohol have to give up custody of their children? Not necessarily, but it does mean that they must take the necessary steps to get clean and sober if they want to continue to play a meaningful role in their children’s lives.

Addicted moms and dads may try to be good parents, but it’s hard to be fully present in their children’s lives if they are stoned or sleeping off a night of drinking when it’s time to get the kids off to school in the morning.

Also, if a parent is forking money over to drug dealers or bartenders, they may come up short when it’s time to pay school tuition, buy healthy foods, take the kids on mind-expanding outings to museums or buy team uniforms.

If parents go to rehab, they may worry that they will lose custody of their children. If they currently have custody, they may have to rely on others to provide their kids with care while they detox and undergo a rehab program.

Sometimes one must lose a battle or two to win the war, and that’s how an addicted parent should view this temporary separation. No court is eager to turn over the custody of vulnerable children to addicts who have not faced their problems.

In all matters related to child custody, the courts must act with the children’s best interests at heart. In most cases, the courts will make every effort to keep children and their parents involved in each others’ lives. Whether that involves the parents retaining custody of the kids depends largely on the efforts that parent has made to get and stay sober.

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