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Posted on May 15, 2017 in Child Custody

The reality is that a certain percentage of Family Court cases involve one or two parties who are substance misusers. For example, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that following a general trend of increased methamphetamine use in recent years, methamphetamine-related deaths reached a record high in 2015. The children of parents misusing and/or addicted to substances are the most tragic victims.

In custody and visitation cases, a California judge is primarily concerned with the “best interest of the child.” California Family Code § 3011 requires that a judge making a decision in the best interest of the child consider “[t]he habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances, the habitual or continual abuse of alcohol, or the habitual or continual abuse of prescribed controlled substances by either parent.”

Often, Family Court cases involving substance misuse will see a parent present evidence of the other parent’s criminal convictions relating to substance misuse, documented substance misuse (photos, text messages, etc.) and testimony of observed substance misuse.

A judge can order drug testing where there is “a judicial determination . . . of continual illegal use of controlled substances or the habitual or continual abuse of alcohol by the parent . . . .” (Fam. Code, § 3041.5.)

Depending on the circumstances present in the case, court orders may attempt to address a parent’s substance misuse in a way that promotes better parenting and ensures the health, safety, and well-being of the child or children involved. For example, a judge might order drug testing for a certain period of time and/or order supervised visitation by a third party to ensure a parent is safely caring for their child.

James Scott’s Comments:

Chemical dependency accounts for about sixty percent (60%) of the divorces that I have seen. It is unlikely that anyone else in San Diego has done more divorces than me. The three primary causes of divorce are:

1)      Chemical Dependency;
2)      Sex; and
3)      Money.

It is quite likely that one of the causes will lead to one of the other causes and pretty soon things are irreconcilable. In the early 1980’s crystal meth, going by a number of names gave an odious distinction to San Diego. Now the recipe seems to be widely known and it is the cocaine of the poor.  Mix in alcohol and Vicodin or hydrocodone to round off the ragged edges and you have a parent who is “psychologically unavailable” for the children. And unavailable for the rest of the world except for druggy friends.

The good news is that some people can get clean and sober on their own and some people can get well with professional assistance or even voluntary organizations like AA and NA.

The tougher news is that a long addiction to a hard drug can lead to cleaning up in custody or in a residential treatment center for months.

Having healthy sound parenting is the goal for the best interests of the children.

To understand more about divorce or custody and visitation involving substance misuse and want to discuss any of these issues further, contact the Law Offices of Scott Family Law by calling (858) 974-4900. Scott Family Law is a Certified Family Law Specialist with more than 35 years of experience.