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Substance Abuse and Parenting

A parent or other caregiver with an alcohol or drug addiction has a profound impact on their children.  Substance abuse and parenting are more common than most people realize.  Unfortunately, the parent does not always see that his or her behavior is harmful or won’t acknowledge that there is an issue.  Children need a lot of attention and care giving, regardless of the age.  Many times, the effects are great upon the children of the substance abuser.


If your child’s other parent has an addiction involving alcohol or drugs, you may want the advice or assistance of a lawyer.  Here are some questions you may have regarding substance abuse and parenting.

My child’s other parent has a drug or alcohol addiction. Can I do the following?

  • Can I restrict his/her parenting time with our child?
  • Can I require supervised parenting time?
  • Can I require that he/she complete a program before our child spends time alone with him/her again?
  • What is the process for bringing this issue before the Court and addressing the issues with the Judge?

How can I protect my child if my ex is drinking in front of him/her and I know that he/she becomes violent when drinking?

  • Can I prevent my child from visiting?
  • Can I require only day visits with no overnights?
  • Can I request that his/her time be supervised?
  • Can I request testing to ensure sobriety?
  • Can I ask that he or she be mandated to treatment?

In short, never take matters into your own hands and simply deny parenting time.  If there is an order, you must honor it, or take steps to modify it.  You cannot take any steps without bringing the matter before the Court and addressing the issues.  You will be required to evidence that there is an issue, and that it presents a danger to the child (or perhaps that it is being consumed in the presence of the child) and then ask the Court for appropriate remedies.  This, of course, depends on the nature and length of the substance abuse issue and how much exposure the child has had to the issue.


Maybe you have struggled with an addiction and you are seeking to protect your rights as a parent.  You may have questions such as these:

I have stopped going to my AA or NA program and I have begun drinking again but in moderation.  I do not drink around my child. 

  • Can the other party restrict my parenting time if I do not drink in front of my child but I am not in a program?
  • Can the other party require supervised parenting time if I have completed my mandatory program and have started using again but I am trying to get help?
  • Can the other party take my child away from me because I smoke marijuana which is no longer prosecuted here (MA)?

I do not believe I have a drinking or drug problem but my ex is convinced I do.  How can I fight this? 

  • How can I prove this so I can have normal parenting time?
  • Is drinking in front of my child in small amounts going to cause me to lose my parenting time?
  • If I have someone visit my home who drinks or smokes pot, will I lose the right to have my child over?
  • What testing can I have to show the other party that I am not using and that there is nothing of concern?

If there is a substance abuse issue, first and foremost, you must be honest with yourself about the situation and address the issue.  Parenting time is important, but the safety of the child is the primary concern.   If you are using, you need to take steps to determine how you will try to stop, what you will do to maintain and how you will address this with the other parent.  Address the issue and the outcome in court will be better for you.  If you ignore the issue, and it comes to light with the Court, then you will find yourself in an uphill battle to gain back your parenting time.  If the other party is convinced that you are using, but you are not, then you can consider testing to prove that you are not.

If you find yourself in this position, seek the advice of an attorney to guide you through the best possible solution.  You may be interested in reading why having a lawyer can help your situation although every situation is different.  You want to address the issues while maintaining the best interest of the child no matter which end of the issue you find yourself on.   If you would like to consult with me about your matter, contact me.

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