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Substance Use Disorder and Its Impact on Parenting Time

Unfortunately, in this day and age in the United States and elsewhere around the world, a significant number of people suffer from what medically is classified as substance use disorder. Among the population more generally, these are people laboring under a state of abusing a mind-altering substance or are addicted to some type of drug, including alcohol. Substance use disorder is a common issue that impacts parenting time between a noncustodial parent and a minor child. There are several specific factors that need to be considered when it comes to the matter of substance use disorder and its impact on parenting time:

  • Definition of substance use disorder
  • Best interests of a child standard and an impaired parent
  • Changing parenting time because of a substance use disorder
  • Emergency suspension of parenting time because of substance use disorder
  • Supervised parenting time and substance use disorder
Definition of Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder medically is defined as the persistent use of drugs, including alcohol, despite the fact that this use of mind-altering substances results in adverse consequences and substantial harm. In common parlance, substance use disorder is known by a number of terms like drug abuse, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism.

Substance use disorder can result in a deterioration of the relationships an individual diagnosed with this condition is able to maintain with other people. This includes a deterioration of the relationship a person suffering from substance use disorder has with his or her own children. Substance use disorder can impair a person's ability to care for his or her own children. A person with substance use disorder - a person laboring under drug abuse or drug addiction - can present a risk to the wellbeing of his or her children.

Best Interests of a Child Standard and an Impaired Parent

Matters relating to parenting time are determined through the application of the best interests of a child standard. Custody and parenting decisions are governed by making a determination of what is in the best interests of the child.

When an issue arises that a noncustodial parent is suffering from some degree of substance use disorder, the best interests of a child standard comes into play. If a court is called upon to alter an existing parenting time arrangement, a judge is called upon to determine whether permitting parenting time to continue in its present course is in the best interests of a child. Typically, when an issue arises regarding a noncustodial parent, substance use disorder, and parenting time, an alteration in an existing parenting time plan or order is likely to be necessary.

Changing Parenting Time Because of a Substance Use Disorder

When an issue with a noncustodial parent being identified as having some type of substance use disorder, an alteration of existing parenting time is the standard course to protect the best interests of the child. The change in an existing parenting time order may come in the form of a suspension of parenting time or a designation of another reliable, trusted individual to supervise the parenting time.

Emergency Suspension of Parenting Time Because of Substance Use Disorder

If a child should be deemed to be in danger because of a noncustodial parent's substance use, abuse, or addiction issue, a court can issue an emergency order suspending parenting time indefinitely. A custodial parent should not take matters into his or her own hands. Rather, a custodial parent should seek interdiction from the court in the form of an official suspension of parenting time.

Supervised Parenting Time and Substance Use Disorder

A commonplace practice is for a court to issue a supervised parenting order when an issue of substance use disorder arises regarding a noncustodial parent. A court is apt to consider supervised parenting time as opposed to suspending parenting time all together if the noncustodial parent's condition is not particularly severe and if an issue with mind-altering substances has not been of long duration. Moreover, a court is more inclined to permit supervised parenting time if the noncustodial parent is involved in some type of substance abuse recovery program.

Substance use disorder can wreak havoc in a person's life, and in the lives of people around that individual, including his or her children. In the end, special protective measures need to be put in place to guard the best interests of a child when a noncustodial parent is diagnosed with substance use disorder. The hope is that ultimately a person with substance use disorder overcomes the condition and is able to resume a more normal course of parenting time going forward into the future. If you have any questions concerning a substance use disorder and parenting time, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free initial consultation.

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