If you’re a divorcing parent who has struggled with substance abuse, you’re not alone. Alcohol and drug addiction issues contribute to the end of many marriages.
Even though you’ve taken charge of your life and are in recovery, you may be concerned that your past dependence will prevent you from being able to get any custody of your child – or even unsupervised visitation. Your child’s other parent may not feel confident that your sobriety will last. Even if they believe in your commitment to recovery, they may feel you’ve already done too much damage and that your child would be better off having limited contact.
What factors do judges consider?
If this is the case, the decision will likely lie in the hands of a family court judge. A judge’s responsibility is to do what’s in your child’s best interest and protect their physical and emotional well-being. How do you convince them that you are capable of being a good parent?
It will depend in part on how much your addiction affected your parenting. If you were were accused of being abusive or negligent or of putting your child in unsafe situations, you may have a bigger hurdle to get over. Another factor will be how long you’ve been sober. If you are fresh out of a 90-day treatment program, you probably can’t expect shared custody any time soon. If you’ve got a year or more under your belt, your chances are better.
How can you help your case?
An attorney can help you compile evidence of your commitment to sobriety. That could include asking your doctor, therapist, sponsor and others to testify on your behalf or obtaining documentation of your compliance with treatment or letters of support. Volunteering to submit to random drug and alcohol testing may also help. There are other options that can help a judge, your co-parent, a court-appointed social worker and anyone else with some input into the decision feel more comfortable with you spending time with your child.
Remember that custody or visitation orders from your divorce do not need to be permanent. Find out from a legal professional what you need to do if you want to seek a modification of the order. It may be just a matter of maintaining your sobriety for longer. In the meantime, it’s best for you and your child if you make the most of the time you’re allowed to have together. This will improve your chances of getting more parenting rights later.