Latest News
Child Custody and Substance Abuse: Navigating Sensitive Legal Challenges in Massachusetts Divorce Cases



Child Custody and Substance Abuse: Navigating Sensitive Legal Challenges in Massachusetts Divorce Cases

20 June 2023
Child Custody and Substance Abuse: Navigating Sensitive Legal Challenges in Massachusetts Divorce Cases

Child custody cases involving minor children are often highly sensitive matters in divorce cases in Massachusetts. When determining primary custody, the family law courts carefully assess various factors. In such cases, allegations of substance abuse made by one parent against the other can significantly impact custody and visitation decisions, provided there is sufficient evidence to support these claims. Even after finalizing the divorce and establishing shared custody, if you face a custody modification case related to drug or alcohol abuse initiated by the co-parent, the court may consider you an unfit parent if the allegations are deemed credible. If the court concludes that your substance abuse poses a danger to your child, your custody or visitation rights may be limited or even revoked entirely.

How does the court determine substance abuse?

 In Massachusetts, the family law court holds discretion in ordering tests for substance abuse for one or both parents. You may be required to provide a urine sample for immediate lab analysis, or in some cases, the court may order a hair follicle test, which can detect illegal substances consumed within the past 90 days. The judge decides which tests should be conducted and which specific prohibited drugs should be screened, based on the history and allegations involved. Additionally, the judge may order random urine screenings or the use of a breathalyzer device to monitor alcohol consumption. Alongside investigating the claims of substance abuse, the judge separately evaluates whether this behavior endangers the child.

When it comes to substance abuse claims during divorce proceedings, while a co-parent can request a child custody modification order after the divorce is finalized, the most effective time to present a case for child custody is during the initial divorce proceeding. Establishing evidence of a history of substance abuse and ongoing problems with drugs or alcohol against the ex-spouse can strongly influence the child custody order. If one parent can convince the court that repeated incidents of substance abuse pose a threat to the child’s well-being, the Massachusetts court may deny physical custody to the other parent, and it can be challenging to regain custody. In extreme cases, the court may even deny legal custody, leaving the sober parent responsible for all decisions concerning the child.

Regarding visitation rights in cases of drug or alcohol abuse, if physical custody is granted to one parent in Massachusetts, the family law judge typically allows the other parent visitation rights. However, if it is proven in court that the parent continues to struggle with substance abuse, even visitation rights may be limited or revoked. Supervised visitation might be ordered until the parent can demonstrate evidence of long-term sobriety.

The family law courts in Massachusetts take substance abuse issues seriously when minor children are involved. Their primary focus is to safeguard the child’s best interests in all circumstances. Therefore, if allegations of substance abuse against a parent are proven, there is a genuine risk of losing child custody and visitation rights.

Rehabilitation is a credible solution to regain custody. Before granting child custody or visitation rights to a parent with a substance abuse problem, the judge may require them to seek professional treatment or rehabilitation. The appropriate treatment will be determined by a medical expert based on the severity of the addiction. For minor issues, outpatient rehab or participation in support groups like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous may be sufficient. In more severe cases, inpatient treatment and detox may be necessary.

Once you can demonstrate to the court that you have successfully completed treatment and medical evidence confirms your freedom from addiction, you may have the opportunity to regain your custody and visitation rights. Whether you are facing legal obstacles related to child custody or visitation due to your history of substance abuse or you are a concerned parent seeking sole custody because of the co-parent’s substance abuse issues, it is crucial to contact Wright Family Law Group as soon as possible. Schedule a consultation with us today.

Share Post On:
facebook twitter Linkedin

Schedule Your Expert
Consultation Now