Parental substance abuse can affect custody rulings

If you are struggling with a substance abuse problem while simultaneously battling an ex for custody of your children, you are waging a tough battle on both fronts.

Parental substance abuse affects children in both obvious and more subtly insidious ways. The unpredictability of a parent's moods and behavior while he or she is drunk or high creates chaos in the home. The structured environment that gives the kids the security they crave gives way to inconsistencies and lax rules.

When a parent is drinking or using, children can feel that they must walk on eggshells in order not to upset their parent. Conversely, if a parent can't get hold of a supply of drugs or must go without drinking, the lability of their mood fluctuations creates confusion in young minds. Kids often take on the mantle of their parents' substance abuse issues, blaming themselves for their parents' lack of sobriety.

Children of substance abusers react in different ways. Some withdraw, trying to remain invisible so as not to trigger an unpleasant episode. Others strive for perfection in all areas as a way to stave off their parents' using, and may berate themselves when they inevitably fall short.

If you have a drug or alcohol problem, it can adversely affect your chances of gaining custody or even liberal visitation. However, if you are actively pursuing sober living, your family law attorney can demonstrate that you have successfully completed a detox and rehab program. He or she can note your frequent attendance at AA or NA meetings and call on your sponsor to testify on your behalf at any hearings. Questions about your commitment to sobriety can be addressed by your own attorney before they can be used against you negatively by opposing counsel.

Source: The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, "Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Children and Families," accessed July 09, 2015

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