Co-parenting with your ex-spouse can be challenging even under the best of circumstances. Splitting from one household to two can require coordinating two busy schedules, making sure your child has everything he or she needs at both houses, and putting a bit of extra planning into holiday schedules and event times. Even if you and your ex-spouse have a civil relationship, these logistical challenges can be enough to fray tempers.
But co-parenting with someone in the throes of an active addiction is, for many, all but impossible. Attempting to stick to a consistent schedule and ensure your child's health and safety is tough, even when your ex-spouse is a functional addict; the sheer nature of addiction means that your child will never be a priority in an addict's mind. Read on to learn more about your rights and responsibilities when it comes to safeguarding your child against the effects of a parent's addiction.
What are your responsibilities as a sober parent?
Once you become aware of your ex-spouse's addiction (or the extent of an already-known addiction), you may often need to take some extra steps to make sure your child is safe. For example, if your ex-spouse is an alcoholic, this can mean setting down rules about alcohol use (or outright forbidding alcohol use) when your ex is exercising parenting time with your child. Your ex should also be aware that if they are caught with illegal drugs or paraphernalia when your child is present, a CPS case may be initiated and they could face termination of their parental rights.
Ultimately, every decision you make should come down to your child's safety. Regardless of what your divorce decree or custody order states, if you don't feel as though your child will be safe with their other parent, you are within your rights to withhold visitation or contact law enforcement for further guidance.
When should you seek custody?
It is difficult, although not impossible, for an addict to be the good parent your child deserves. And while someone seeking sobriety shouldn't be punished by the denial of access to their child, in some cases, it's necessary to temporarily suspend parenting time or custody while your ex-spouse gets help.
In general, if you're concerned about your child's safety during visitation or are no longer confident in your ex-spouse's ability to forgo the use of alcohol or other drugs while they're caring for your child, it can be a good idea to pursue a modification of the custody order. A family law attorney from a law firm like Top Tier Law Group can help you with this process, as this situation, unfortunately, isn't as uncommon as you may think.