Wail Sarieh
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What to do if a Co-Parent is Abusing Drugs

Family Law

California family law does award time with the minor children to both parents following a divorce – unless the courts find one of those parents to be unfit. An unfit parent is not based on a judge’s feelings; instead, it is based on the behaviors that parent exhibits that could pose a risk of danger to the child – such as physical or sexual abuse. A substance abuse problem could also compromise the child’s safety and affect how a parent provides consistent, secure, and loving care to his or her child. In order to prove that your former spouse has an addiction or drug abuse problem, you will need to gather evidence – and do so with the assistance of a family law attorney.

In California, it is important to realize that the courts look to what is the best for the child – not either parent. So, if the courts learn about allegations regarding substance abuse, they will vigorously consider the facts and investigate to ensure that the child’s best interests are considered.

The Law

California law is very clear as to how a parent can be deemed “unfit.” If you claim that your ex has a drug or alcohol abuse issue, then the courts will refer to the mental and physical health statutes of the Family Law Statutes. These clauses will then help them decide what is in the best interest of the child, and whether the other parent’s abuse issue poses a direct threat to that child. The parent may be denied visitation, be placed on supervised visitation, or not be granted custody at all.

You Must Prove Your Claim – Allegations Are Not Enough

While you may know that your ex is abusing drugs, your allegations and claims are not enough. Instead, the courts will need to see physical proof that your ex’s addiction poses a risk to the child’s mental and physical wellbeing. A skilled family law attorney can assist you with this process. Your attorney will be able to collect the necessary evidence for your allegations, such as through laboratory tests, testimonies from those who have witnessed the abuse, and even by hiring a private investigator (if needed) to find evidence that supports your allegations. In order to prove that a drug abuse problem exists, you will need to show the courts:

  • Toxicology reports via blood or hair samples that prove elevated levels of prescription or illegal drugs.
  • Evidence of substance abuse, or evidence in the home that he or she has an addiction problem.
  • Witness testimony that proves the parent has a drug abuse problem.
  • Proof that the co-parent has abused drugs or alcohol in front of the child.

Even with proof, a parent with an alcohol or drug abuse problem could still receive visitation of the children. That is because the California courts still recognize a parent’s right to see his or her child; regardless of the parent’s own problems. However, this visitation could be supervised or limited due to the risks to the child. In the event that the parent is a recovering abuser, but there is proof that rehabilitation programs have been completed and he or she is drug-free, then the parent could be awarded custody once again.

Do You need an Attorney?

If you suspect your co-parent of abusing drugs, you need to contact a family law attorney in Orange County right away. The attorneys at Sarieh Law Offices, ALC understand what you are going through. Let our team and even our investigators help establish that the other parent has a drug abuse problem and keep your child safe. Schedule a consultation regarding custody by calling 714-542-6200, or ask a question online via our online contact form.

Wail Sarieh
By Wail Sarieh