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How substance abuse may affect child custody

Substance abuse is a struggle that many residents of San Jose face every day. When there are child custody issues involved, the situation may result in court intervention initiated by either another person who is entitled to custody of the child or in some cases, the Department of Child Protective Services if a report about drug or alcohol use in the presence of children is made to the state.

In child custody cases where an allegation of substance abuse has been made, judges generally look at how the problem may affect the parent’s ability to care for his or her child. Past and current substance abuse, as well as other characteristics involving a parent’s overall fitness to parent a child, may be taken to account when a judge is making an initial determination regarding which parent should be awarded custody.

If a custody determination has already been made and there is later an allegation regarding substance abuse, this may be considered a changed circumstance that would allow for a child custody order modification. For example, if there is proof that substance abuse has occurred in the presence of a child, a court may order supervised visitation until the parent who has abused drugs or alcohol can prove that he or she has completed a treatment program.

A parent who is concerned about another parent’s substance abuse may wish to consult an attorney who has experience with these types of family law issues. The parent who is making the allegation generally has the burden of proving that the other party is abusing substances and can use evidence such as recent arrests, court-ordered drug testing and witness testimony to demonstrate that the other parent is unfit to care for the child.