The nationwide discussion on addiction and its treatment at recovery centers is incomplete without the mention of how addiction impacts child custody disputes. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, substance use disorder may be a criteria for child neglect. Furthermore, the way that addiction is viewed by the law varies heavily from state to state. In Arizona, of instance, the laws are much more stringent.
Addiction Impacts Child Custody Even Before a Child is Born
There are 14 states that defines prenatal exposure to substance use as a form of neglect. Additionally, health care professionals can report suspected cases of abuse in mothers to the Department of Child Safety. An official statement must be based on one of the following findings:
- Indication of substance abuse in either the mother or child at the time of birth or prenatal visit
- A previous medical history of substance abuse
- Any prior case of abuse during pregnancy or after giving birth
- Verified positive results on a toxicology screening for the mother or infant
- A diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome or other alcohol-related conditions before a child reaches the age of 1
Child Custody and Exposing Children to Illegal Drug Activity
While parents can make their own decisions about what type of environments they are exposed to, children rarely have a voice. Over time, researchers and lawmakers have sought to reduce the negative effects on younger generations that are exposed to illicit activity, which may include the manufacturing or distribution of drugs. In some states, parents who willingly allow children to be in an area where chemicals or equipment for creating controlled substances is present is punishable by law for child abuse and neglect.
In some states, additional exposure to illicit drug activity may result in a charge of child abuse or neglect as well. These regulations include:
- In California, the use of any controlled substance is considered child neglect and abuse because it impairs a parent’s ability to care for a child. The state also implemented enhanced penalties for guardians who keep their children in drug manufacturing areas.
- Meth possession in the presence of children is also classified as a felony in California.
- Colorado defines any exposure to illicit drug activity as neglect. In addition, the state has instated the same enhanced penalty for meth exposure as California.
- Utah, New Mexico and Nevada have similar definitions of child abuse for exposing children to illicit drug activity.
And the list goes on.
What Does It All Mean?
The charges for exposing youth to drug-related activity will result in a lower likelihood of retaining child custody. If a parent or caregiver is arrested for drug use or possession, family members or friends may file for the custody of children. However, most parents dealing with disorder benefit from an effective addiction treatment program that helps keep children around sober adults.
If you’re reading this post, you may have a substance abuse disorder. If that’s the case, you may be facing tough times that include time without your children. While not all states rules are as strict as the ones cited in this post, it’s important to remember, addiction is harmful to both parents and children who are exposed to the disease. Find an addiction treatment program in your area and get the help you need – for your sake and for your children.
If you would like more information about how continued addiction impacts child custody hearings, click here. Keep in mind, sobriety is a parent’s highest priority before even discussing child custody.