Substance abuse in parents during custody dispute

“Parental substance abuse is a serious problem affecting the well-being of children and families. The co-occurence of parental substance abuse and problematic parenting is recognized as a major public health concern.”  Research shows that children with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs are more likely to experience abuse or neglect than children in other households.” Intervening effectively in the lives of these children and their families is not the responsibility of a single agency or professional group, but rather it is a shared community concern.”

The best interests and safety of children should always guide any professional intervention and legal strategy. During a custody dispute, the family law professionals’ ultimate goal in addressing parental substance abuse, is to meet the Best Interest of the Child/ren (as stated in MN Statute 518.17).

It is well known that while involved in custody dispute some chemically dependent parents minimize, conceal or deny their substance abuse, its impact on the children, the co-parent, co-parenting and parenting. Unless the other parent obtains the assistance of competent experts and skilled legal representation, the children’s best interest is compromised and the “competent” parent is taxed with the responsibility to monitor the chemically dependent parent’s parenting and its impact on the children. Furthermore the competent parent must remediate the problematic parenting provided by the parent involved in substance abuse.

Currently family professionals involved in custody decision-making mostly rely on “common-sense” practices since there are no model standards of practice for examining and addressing parental substance abuse during a custody dispute. These practices inadequately address the needs of the parent involved in substance abuse, the other parent’s needs and consequently,  the best interests of the children.  Failure to seek expertise, properly evaluate and address the parental substance abuse place the children at risk for negligence, endangerment and abuse.

Parenting Through Transition LLC recognizes the urgent need for a best practice approach and recommends parents and their attorneys to consult expert professionals such as Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) with expertise in forensic assessments and parenting to address substance abuse during the custody dispute and in creating a co-parenting or parallel parenting plan.

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