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Chemical dependency can impact child custody

Millions of people in the United States struggle or have struggled with an addiction to drugs or alcohol; many of them are parents. Addiction is undoubtedly a serious issue that many families across California deal with on a regular basis and it can play an especially powerful role when it comes to child custody disputes.

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If you are battling addiction or are concerned about the chemical dependency of your child's other parent, you need to understand how it will affect parental rights as well as custody and visitation arrangements.

To begin with, you must understand that allegations of drug and/or alcohol use are taken very seriously by family courts in California. However, the Court must have sufficient confirmation of the alleged drug use before it can legally order any drug testing. The Court considers claims of addiction carefully in order to ascertain whether a parent's substance use or addiction makes that person a threat to the safety and well-being of the children involved.

In addition to statements made by the parents, courts will also look at arrest records and hear from witnesses in order to make a judgment regarding whether custody or visitation rights should be adjusted.

A history of chemical dependence is not a guarantee that a parent will be stripped of his or her parental rights and visitation. Unless the situation poses an immediate threat to the safety of the child, a parent can still be granted visitation according to California laws. However, certain precautions may be taken. For example, drug tests may be ordered before or during visitation periods to ensure a parent is not under the influence, if the Court has sufficient reason to believe drugs are being used.. Supervision during visits may also be ordered.

Parents who use or have used controlled substances can improve their situation by undergoing addiction counseling and treatment, complying with court orders and consistently passing court-ordered tests.

The top priority in these cases is the well-being of the children. Courts often favor arrangements that allow children to have consistent and frequent contact with both parents but if substance abuse is a threat to the health and safety of the child, the courts will make the necessary adjustments to custody and visitation.

Because these situations are often very sensitive and complex, it can be wise for both parents to have legal counsel during custody disputes involving suspicions of drug or alcohol abuse.

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