Child Custody

Parental Substance Abuse & Child Custody

Many children throughout Texas are impacted by parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, or both. According to the Children’s Bureau, a government organization, “An estimated 12 percent of children in this country live with a parent who is dependent on or abuses alcohol or other drugs.” The Children’s Bureau continues, “While many of these children will not experience abuse or neglect, they are at increased risk of maltreatment and entering the child welfare system.”

As noted by the Children’s Bureau above, when children are being raised by parents who abuse drugs or alcohol, they are at a higher risk of being mistreated and our firm has definitely seen this first-hand, but so has the family courts. In fact, the connection between parental substance abuse and child abuse and neglect is well-understood. According to the Children’s Bureau, when a parent has a substance abuse problem it can affect parenting in many ways due to:

  • Physical impairments as a result of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Reduced ability to respond to the child’s needs
  • Difficulty controlling one’s emotions or anger
  • Disruption in a healthy attachment to the child
  • Spending what limited funds the parent has on drugs or alcohol
  • Spending time using or seeking out drugs or alcohol
  • Estrangement from one’s family and other forms of social support
  • Incarceration due to drug or alcohol use leading to poor supervision for the children

Losing Custody Because of Substance Abuse

If a parent has a substance abuse problem, it cannot only affect parenting, it can impact child custody, and for good reason. If a parent’s substance abuse is having a direct impact on their parenting, for example, if they can’t hold down a job, or if they are leaving drugs around the children, or if they are not keeping enough food in the home, or if they are bringing dangerous criminals around their children, or if they are neglecting their children, etc., the other parent can grow very concerned and fight for custody.

“If a parent is on drugs, does this mean they can’t see their children?” Not necessarily. If a judge awards custody to the non-using parent, it does not mean the addicted parent won’t see their children. Instead, the judge may allow for supervised visits in the presence of a third party, and the non-addicted parent may be awarded sole legal and physical custody.

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