How Does Substance Abuse by a Parent Impact Child Custody in Arizona?

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How Does Substance Abuse by a Parent Impact Child Custody in Arizona?

Substance abuse and child custody cases in Arizona

Substance abuse by a parent is one of the leading causes of divorce and post-divorce custody modification proceedings. The effects of drug and alcohol abuse can be devastating to a family, especially the children, who have often times been exposed, neglected and abused due to a parent’s addiction. As a result, courts take substance abuse allegations very seriously.

Arizona law provides the court wide discretion in dealing with drug and alcohol abuse cases and the ability to issue strict orders to address the issue in child custody matters. For example, if it is proven that a parent has abused drugs or alcohol and/or has been convicted of a drug offense within the 12 months preceding the commencement of a child custody action, then the court may presume that it is not in the child’s best interests for that parent to be awarded legal decision-making rights. In addition, the court will issue a parenting time schedule that appropriately protects the child, including supervised/restricted parenting time

If a parent has been found to have a history of substance abuse, the court will consider evidence that may show the parent’s sobriety, if such evidence exists. Often times the accused parent will be directed to submit to a series of random drug and alcohol tests and/or a substance abuse assessment. In serious cases, the court may direct a parent to participate in drug treatment and therapy. Similarly, a parent may be referred to the Maricopa County Superior Drug Court. If a parent can show his/her sobriety, then the court may be convinced to issue less restrictive decision-making and parenting time Orders.

Divorce cases involving parental substance abuse issues can be difficult and emotionally tolling because of the possibility of relapse and the likely need for ongoing monitoring. They can involve periodic reviews to assess the parent’s progress in Court-Mandated programs. It is important to have experienced legal counsel in a divorce and child custody cases involving substance abuse allegations, so that a thorough and accurate determination of the children’s best interests can be made by the court.

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