When Does the Other Parent’s Drug or Alcohol Problems Affect Custody?
If your spouse smoked marijuana, consumed other illegal drugs, and/or drank excessively while he or she was married to you, chances are good that he or she is still doing these very same things after you have divorced. So why does the court still allow him or her to have custody of or visitation with your child? Here are two main reasons why your ex-spouse’s bad habits are not being properly considered by the court:
- Insufficient evidence that these habits exist: If you are seeking to modify custody or parenting time orders based on the other parent’s bad habits, there must be evidence these habits exist. Your word and statements from your family members are not likely to be enough to prove that they exist. The court will likely want to see evidence of them like social media posts, arrest reports, judgments of convictions, and other objective evidence before believing that the other parent is using illegal drugs or consuming alcohol excessively;
- Insufficient evidence that these habits endanger the children’s welfare: Although illegal drug use and excessive alcohol consumption are generally accepted to be harmful, the standard that a court must follow is determining what is in the child’s best interest. Without evidence that the parent’s drug or alcohol usage is endangering the child’s physical or mental health, a court may conclude that the child’s need to spend time with that parent outweighs any of the parent’s bad behavior. Thus, be prepared to present evidence that:
- The other parent has been arrested for drug/alcohol violations in front of the children;
- The other parent has left the children alone for significant periods of time to use drugs or alcohol;
- The other parent is so intoxicated that he/she cannot care for the child
- The other parent allows the children to use drugs or alcohol in his or her presence;
- The other parent involves the children in purchasing drugs or alcohol; or
- Similar injurious behavior directed toward the children.
Remember the Standard: “Best Interests of the Children”
Some individuals go into custody battles believing that whoever emerges as the “better parent” in the court’s eyes can proceed to tell the court how bad the other parent is during the custody hearing. These individuals are more likely to experience greater success if they retain a competent Michigan family law attorney and focus their arguments instead on how the other parent’s “bad behavior” is affecting the children. Evidence of the negative effect a parent’s behavior has on his or her children can be shown through:
- Decreasing grades or performance in school;
- Depression or mood swings;
- Loss of interest in hobbies;
- Suicidal or self-destructive behaviors; or
- Other negative or harmful behaviors exhibited by your children.
Work with a Michigan Family Attorney
Consult with the Michigan child custody team at Van Den Heuvel Law Office if you are concerned about the other parent’s behavior and the effect it may have on your children. We can help you gather the evidence you will need to prevail in asking the court to modify custody or visitation orders. Contact us at (616) 698-0000 or contact us online.