One underhanded way to get the drop on the other parent in a custody battle is to accuse him or her of having a substance abuse problem. When the allegations involve an illegal drug, that’s even more damning, but alcoholism – the old standby – will still raise red flags regarding child custody and visitation matters.
There is one flaw in this argument, however, which is that the courts must do what is in the best interest of the child. Most courts are starting to see that children are emotionally and psychologically healthier while maintaining a relationship with both parents.
While a father with a substance abuse problem can be a danger to his child, there is a lot of latitude in the definition of “substance abuse.” To a teetotaler, drinking a couple of beers at home while watching the ‘Huskers dispatch the Hawkeyes would be substance abuse. When these types of allegations get band ied about during child custody battles, it’s very important to consider the source and the context.
Assess yourself honestly
Does your ex have a valid point? Do you have a string of DUI convictions – or even one? Has your partying passed the point of social drinking and begun the descent into alcoholism? What about drugs? Smoking pot, taking pills and using the hard stuff are all ammunition in the hands of your ex’s custody attorney.
Consider, too, what evidence she may have amassed during your time together as a couple. Videos of you passed out, slurring or appearing intoxicated may become potential evidence against you unless you have an attorney vigorously objecting to their relevance. There are also set-up scenarios you may need to dodge. During custody negotiations, beware of any attempt by your ex to get together for “old time’s sake” so she can ply you with alcohol, as it’s likely a ploy.
When you don’t actually have a problem
If you have evaluated your lifestyle and can honestly say that you don’t have a problem with substances, be they of the legal or illegal variety, then it’s time to be proactive on this issue. Get a doctor or substance abuse counselor to put this in writing for your attorney to submit to the court. You may have to take a couple of drug tests and pay for a professional assessment. But when it comes to the custody of your children, this will be money well spent.
Don’t know where to start? A family law attorney who is very familiar with fathers’ rights in custody matters will likely have some good recommendations for professionals you can see for evaluation and assessment. Then, armed with documentation that repudiates these allegations, you and your attorney can proceed confidently in court.