Can a Parent Lose Custody for Drug Use?

19.7 million American adults aged 12 and older had a substance use disorder in 2017, while almost 74% of those adults also struggled with alcohol abuse, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That same year, 1-in-8 adults had both alcohol and drug use disorders.

As you can see, drug abuse is widespread in the United States. The impacts of substance abuse on families are devastating and can be short-term or long-term. Common effects of drug abuse on families include:

  • Frequent fights
  • Increases likelihood of children abusing drugs
  • Increases likelihood of abuse and neglect
  • Creates divided families
  • Develops feelings of guilt, anxiety, and blame
  • Fosters instability in children
  • Results in poor academic and job performance
  • Leads to the commission of crimes

With this in mind, it is important to be mindful of the impacts that drug use could have on your child custody arrangements. Whether or not you suffered the effects above in your own family already, you must address the fact that substance use could impact your relationship with your children in the future. When they get older, your kids may feel the effects of the drug use even harder. This holds true if you have a history of drug abuse yourself or you suspect your spouse of such abuse.

Keep in mind that drugs include prescription drugs and cannabis. Although cannabis has been decriminalized in New York since 2019, recreational marijuana is still illegal for all state residents while medical marijuana is legal for qualified patients. Not to mention, prescription drug abuse remains among the top public health concerns in the US, with an estimated 18 million people misusing prescription medications at least once in 2017.

Commonly abused prescription drugs include sleep medications, morphine, codeine, amphetamines like Adderall, methylphenidates like Ritalin, and DXM. Thus, many people are vulnerable to prescription drug abuse — including parents — considering how accessible these drugs are.

Nonetheless, no matter how easy it is to attain and subsequently abuse these drugs, you must ensure that doesn’t become a reality for you, or else you may risk losing physical and/or legal custody of your children. Should that become a possibility for you, do let our lawyers know and we can help resolve your issue.

On the other hand, if you suspect your spouse of abusing substances, you may petition for a modification of the child custody order and request full physical and legal custody of your children. You can argue that your spouse’s drug use disorder has resulted in abuse or neglect, or otherwise, an unsafe living condition for your children. Should that be the case for you, our Westchester County family attorneys can represent you.

Whether you are at risk of losing custody of your kids or determined to gain custody of your loved ones, know that legal help is just a phone call away. To discuss your situation and navigate your legal options, contact our office at (845) 605-4330!

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