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Child Custody During and After Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Treatment

There are many factors which can determine child custody outcomes in cases of drug and alcohol use. Inpatient drug and alcohol treatment can be an integral part of regaining parental rights.

Child Custody During And After Inpatient Drug And Alcohol Treatment

The possibility of losing custody of a child can be a distressing experience for individuals in need of inpatient drug and alcohol treatment. However, in many cases of parental drug and alcohol use, treatment is the first step to restoring visitation rights and ultimately custody. Some individuals may delay attending addiction treatment because it can be difficult to make arrangements for children. Parents who struggle with substance use or addiction, but still want the best for their children, should learn as much as possible about the effects of addiction and how inpatient drug and alcohol treatment will impact their parental rights.

Substance Use And Child Custody Laws

In response to the growing concerns about parental substance use and child welfare, 47 states and the District of Columbia have enacted child protection laws that address some aspect of parental substance use. Some states have also expanded their civil definitions of child abuse and neglect to include the misuse of controlled substances which may impair the caregiver’s ability to provide adequate care for a child or expose a child to illegal drug activity. The following are common drug-related situations in which parents may lose custody or only receive limited supervised custody:

  • being arrested on drug- or alcohol-related charges
  • failing a drug test after The Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) has filed a report of neglect or mistreatment
  • failing a drug test during custody hearings after a separation or divorce

In all cases, the child’s best interest is the priority. In general, court systems will do their best not to separate parents from children, unless it is determined that a parent is no longer fit to raise the child. It is also important to note that any decision made by the court is not always permanent, and there are conditions courts will agree to which can lead to reinstating a parent’s custody rights. [middle-callout]

Possible Custody Outcomes During Inpatient Treatment

Very few inpatient facilities are able to provide daycare for individuals with children, and, in some cases, the court may decide where the child will stay. The most likely place a child will stay is with a non-addicted spouse or other trusted relative, which is usually the case if the child is old enough to attend school during the day. Depending on the severity of their addiction, the length of time individuals will attend inpatient treatment can vary. Many programs last between seven and 10 weeks, however, aftercare programs in an outpatient setting are often recommended. Upon hearing the length of time they will have to spend away from their children, many addicted parents become worried. This is a reasonable response and does not mean they are bad parents. In fact, attending drug and alcohol addiction treatment is a commitment to staying sober because of their children and is a feat which should make parents proud.

Possible Custody Outcomes After Inpatient Treatment

While it is possible to regain full custody after completing an inpatient program, every situation has unique circumstances that will be taken into consideration. Finishing a drug or alcohol addiction treatment program does not mean the addiction is fully cured, as addiction is a chronic disorder that can only be effectively managed. If someone has lost all parental rights, there are multiple things he or she will need to accomplish to prove to the court that he or she is ready to take on those responsibilities again. First, they will need to show the court that they have successfully completed a substance use treatment program, provide evidence of successful recovery (usually a drug test) and prove that they can stay drug-free (continue taking drug tests). Depending on their custody case, the amount of time this takes can vary greatly. Many factors determine whether the court decides if a parent can regain custody of their child.

Common Factors Used To Determine Child Custody

Judges must consider a variety of factors when assessing custody cases that involve addicted parents. Typically, the substance or substances of use are weighed quite heavily, because different substances have different risk factors associated with them. For example, someone who struggles with a methamphetamine addiction is less likely to be granted visitation rights than someone addicted to alcohol because meth has the potential to expose the child to more risk. Usually, these kinds of considerations are based on available addiction research, however, in some cases, they may be influenced by assumptions and stereotypes surrounding specific substances. [bottom-inline-cta]

Local Legal Considerations

Local legal considerations also factor in to the decision-making process. State law can significantly impact the way an addiction case is reviewed. States which have legalized marijuana, for instance, may be more lenient on an individual than other states where the drug is still considered illegal. The length and severity of the addiction is also an essential factor. Individuals who have recently developed minor addictions or causal substance use habits are still endangering their children, but not quite to the extent of individuals who suffer from severe physical dependencies. Judges may also take into account the number of times a parent has relapsed, as well as their previous attempts at drug rehabilitation treatment. While outcomes will vary from case to case, in general, the more severe the addiction, the less likely someone will be granted visitation rights.

Court-Ordered Drug Tests

Sometimes, the court will order addicted parents to undergo randomized drug testing for a certain amount of time after their custody case. Continually passing these drug screenings can lead to an increase in visitation rights and a reduction in testing requirements. If individuals continually fail these random drug screens, it will not only lead to a decrease or potential elimination of parental rights, it can also lead to additional legal problems. Addicted parents who are found to be under the influence of illegal substances may be forcibly returned to treatment, but they may also face time in prison.

Child Custody Outcomes When Both Parents Struggle With Addiction

In cases where neither parent is deemed fit to care for children, the court applies the standard of what is best for the children and their overall well-being. Interpretations of this standard can vary widely between states, courts and judges. When both parents suffer from an addiction, the length and severity of their conditions are still taken into account. While it is possible for one of them to be granted custody, sometimes child custody is given to a third party. If one parent is struggling with addiction and the other is suspected of child abuse or neglect, although not always, the addicted parent often loses custody first.

Finding Inpatient Drug And Alcohol Treatment For Parents

Seeking help for substance use or addiction is not a weak thing to do. Although it may be emotional to say goodbye to your children to attend treatment, in the long run, it is the best thing you can do for them. Choosing to attend an inpatient program is an effective way to deal with drug or alcohol use issues. Inpatient programs may require individuals to live apart from their children. Yet this separation gives the person time to focus on healing and caring for themselves, so they may learn to be better people and better parents.