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How to handle another parent's substance abuse

Charlotte divorced parents might wonder what they should do if they learn their former spouse is abusing drugs or alcohol. Courts generally learn about a parent's substance abuse in one of three ways. It may come up in a custody hearing, it might be reported to social services, or it might be reported directly to the court.

If a parent raises the issue during a custody hearing, a judge will look into the allegations. Because the judge is trying to assess what arrangement is in the best interests of the child, a number of factors may be taken into account including any past substance abuse.

If there is already a custody agreement and parents are concerned about a child's safety, they might need to take out a restraining order against the other parent and deny that parent visitation. In court, a parent should bring documentation, such as police reports, that support the claim of substance abuse as well as evidence that the child's well-being is at stake. A judge may require supervised visitation for the parent with the substance abuse issue. That order might stay in place until the parent completes a rehabilitation program.

Deciding on child custody can be a difficult part of a divorce, but it is important that parents distinguish between their own feelings about the other parent and the safety of the child. If there is domestic violence or other issues, one parent's access to the child might be restricted. However, outside of these extenuating circumstances, courts usually aim to ensure that a child maintains a relationship with both parents. Showing a willingness to cooperate with the other parent despite any personal animosity may demonstrate a parent's fitness to a judge.

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