Substance abuse, from alcoholism to opioid dependency, affects millions of families across the country. Often, substance abuse contributes to the dissolution of marriages. Sometimes, people who are going through divorce begin to rely on alcohol and/or drugs to cope with the stress or fall deeper into a dependency they already have.
When those suffering from substance abuse have kids, it's only natural for the other parent to worry about their kids' safety -- particularly if the couple is no longer together and the alcoholic or drug-dependent parent sometimes cares for the kids on his/her own.
If you're in the process of divorcing a spouse or partner with a substance abuse issue, you can and should raise the matter, and take it before a judge if necessary, to protect your kids. Judges, of course, don't just accept these allegations as fact. Sadly, some parents make false accusations of substance abuse to keep their kids away from their other parent.
The court will order an investigation to determine whether your co-parent is a danger to your kids. If you have evidence of prior dangerous situations in which your co-parent has placed your children or anyone else in danger (including DUIs and other police reports), it's essential to bring those to the court's attention.
If a custody agreement is already in place when you begin to have concerns about your co-parent's substance abuse, you should notify your family law attorney.
Judges don't want to deny parents' access to their kids unless absolutely necessary. However, they often order supervised visits while a claim of substance abuse is being investigated. If found to be valid, the supervised visits may be mandated until the parent has demonstrated that he or she has completed a recovery program. This allows parents to continue their relationship with their children without putting them at risk.
If you're concerned that your kids aren't safe alone with your co-parent because of his or her alcohol and/or drug use, it's essential to talk with your attorney so that you can take the necessary steps to protect your children.