17 Dec Does Rehab Affect Custody?
Congratulations on deciding to receive treatment at an alcohol and drug rehab center. We realize that it can be difficult to recognize that you have a problem with substance abuse, and it can be even more challenging to take the next step to get clean and sober for life. You understand that it is worth the effort to overcome your addiction and reclaim your life.
Many aspects of life are impacted by drug and alcohol abuse. People often struggle in their professional lives, losing their hard-earned careers or dropping out of school. Giving up on beloved interests and hobbies as well as neglecting health are also common when someone is struggling with the mental and physical disease of addiction. One other important area that suffers when a person has a substance abuse problem is relationships with friends and family members. The strain is especially apparent and complex in relationships with minor children.
The lifestyle and choices that a parent makes have a strong influence on their minor children. Although addiction is a disease, and not a character flaw or a sign of weakness, it still has a huge impact on children. Addiction can make parents unpredictable, which can be frightening for young children and can undermine trust and destroy relationships with older children. Substance abuse can also make it difficult to be a caregiver. After all, someone who is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol often struggles to take care of their own health and well-being, making it even more difficult to take care of someone else.
As you prepare to go to a treatment center to overcome your addiction to drugs or alcohol, you likely have a lot of questions about how it will impact your relationship with your children. After you overcome the first hurdle of telling your children that you’re going to rehab, you’re likely worried about how going to rehab will affect custody of your children. To ease your mind and answer your questions, the drug and alcohol treatment professionals at HARP are here to share some information about custody arrangements and rehab.
Can I Lose Custody of My Child?
Courts and social services agencies generally try to keep families together whenever it is possible because they view a consistent family unit as serving the best interest of children. The best interests of children always outweigh any other considerations. As such, courts consider it to be in the best interest of a child to be raised by their biological parents if the parents are fit to care for and raise that child.
Untreated substance abuse is one factor that can prove that a parent is unfit to raise their child. This general principle makes sense because someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol will not be able to provide appropriate care and guidance for their child. The courts have found several specific circumstances that may cause a parent to lose custody due to substance abuse.
- An arrest on drug or alcohol charges: When a parent is arrested on a charge related to drugs or alcohol, it is common for the parent to lose custody of their child, at least on a temporary basis. The reason why is simple. When a parent is arrested, they are not at home. As a result, they are clearly unable to take care of their child.
- Reports of abuse or neglect: If a social services agency receives a report that a child is being abused or neglected by their parent, the parent can lose custody of their child. This is true regardless of the reason for the abuse or neglect, but substance abuse is a common cause in many cases.
- In cases of divorce: If a court is deciding a custody case after a divorce, substance abuse might come into play. Such cases can be difficult for courts to decide because ex-spouses may make untrue accusations about substance abuse and addiction in order to gain full custody of their children. In such situations, the courts will try not to separate children from their parents unless it is proven that the parent is unfit to raise their child. Accusations and speculation alone are not enough.
Attending a drug and alcohol treatment program is not a reason for courts to revoke custody of a child. In fact, if a parent loses custody of their child for one of the reasons listed above, they may regain it if they successfully complete a drug and alcohol treatment program. The parent must also prove that they have been rehabilitated and are fit to raise their child again.
How Do I Regain Custody After Rehab?
Before a parent can regain custody of their child after attending rehab, they must first prove to the court that they have successfully completed a treatment program and are not currently using drugs or alcohol. How long it takes to regain custody after completing treatment depends on the severity of the situation and whether an arrest on an alcohol- or drug-related criminal charge was involved.
If the case did involve such a charge, the court will need to review the case and determine whether to award custody after the parent has completed rehab. In cases in which a parent lost custody after a hearing by a social service agency, the agency will conduct an evaluation of the parent after they successfully complete rehab. The agency will present their findings to the court, which are often the most influential factor in the court’s decision about custody.
In addition to these factors, a family court judge will also look at several other factors when they make the decision about child custody. Some common examples include the state of the home environment, the educational opportunities that are afforded to the child, and the child’s general safety and wellbeing.
The child custody laws in each state are different, so it is important to meet with a lawyer who is well-versed in the custody laws of your state. In most states, a parent who successfully completes a drug and alcohol treatment program can expect to have a good chance of convincing of a judge to restore child custody, assuming that the parent can prove a substantial change in circumstances and that the custody change is in the best interest of the child.
The following general factors provide a basic guide to what the courts consider when determining the best interest of a child:
- The child’s wishes: The court will listen to what a child wants, especially if the child is older. If the child wants to go back to their parent, the court will give this request heavy consideration. They will also give a child’s request not to be returned to their parent equal weight.
- The child’s relationship with each parent: The court does not want to traumatize a child by removing them from the parent they are closest to. If a child has a strong bond with one parent, but barely knows the other, the judge will be more inclined to grant custody to the parent that the child is closest to.
- The child’s age and needs: Not only does the child’s age influence how much weight the court gives to their opinion, it also can determine which parent is the best fit to take care of the child. If a child is young or requires a great deal of care, the court is more likely to award custody to the parent who is best able to meet that child’s needs.
- The physical and mental health of the parents: The health and fitness of each parent is also important to child custody determinations. If one parent is mentally and physically healthy, but the other parent suffers from severe physical or mental health issues that limit their ability to care for their child, the court may be more likely to grant custody to the parent with the better mental and physical health.
- The ability of the parent to provide a safe home environment: The home environment is very important in custody determinations. If a parent can’t provide a safe and sanitary home environment for any number of reasons, ranging from problems with hoarding to uncertain finances, the court may decide not to grant custody to that parent.
- Any history of domestic violence, substance abuse, or criminal activity: As mentioned earlier, a criminal record or a history of substance abuse, without proof of successful treatment and rehabilitation, can deter courts from granting a parent custody or visitation rights.
Types of Custody
When the court makes a decision about custody arrangements, it can award one of many different types of custody, including physical custody, legal custody, shared custody, and visitation rights. Each of these different types of custody arrangements have different meanings and rights involved with them.
- Physical custody: This type of custody arrangement involves the right of a parent to share in the care of their child.
- Legal custody: This type of custody arrangement is the right of a parent to make decisions for their child’s wellbeing.
- Joint custody: This type of custody arrangement is the right of both parents to care for their child and make decisions regarding the child’s welfare.
- Visitation: If one parent receives sole custody of the child, the other parent will often receive visitation rights, which means that the parent can visit and help parent the child. If a person is suffering from an untreated addiction, they may be denied visitation rights or they may only receive supervised visits. The parent may also be asked to take a drug test before visiting with their child. The goal in these cases is to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the child.
What Do You Say to Your Child After Regaining Custody?
The road to regaining custody of your child is likely one that was long and bumpy. Although the process was difficult for you, it was likely even more difficult for your child. Children thrive on consistency and it can be traumatic to have a parent removed abruptly from their life. Furthermore, it was likely unsettling for your child to watch you struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
After regaining custody, it’s important to speak with your child and reassure them. How you approach this discussion will vary based on the age and understanding of your child. For younger children, you will want to have a more basic conversation, while older children can have a more in-depth discussion.
You can discuss with your therapist what you should say to your child, but it is helpful to include an apology for your behavior and any distress that it caused as well as reassurances that you will be there for your child going forward. Once you make these promises, be ready to follow through on them. Also, be sure to allow your child to ask questions and express any fears or frustrations with you. This open dialogue is important for your child’s wellbeing and your relationship with them going forward.
Many parents have fears about how addiction will impact the custody of their child. While substance abuse can result in custody loss, attending a drug and alcohol treatment program can actually help a parent regain lost custody of their child.
If you have questions about the HARP methodology to addiction treatment, you should contact our knowledgeable drug and alcohol treatment professionals to get the answers you need to feel comfortable moving forward with treatment. If you or someone you love is ready to get clean and sober, the experts at HARP can provide treatment and support.
HARP treats addiction to drugs and alcohol. Our medical professionals and addiction treatment specialists provide detox, counseling, and long-term resources to ensure that you have a comfortable and productive stay at our treatment center before you go home – clean and sober. With help and support, recovery is possible. HARP can help you live an addiction-free life.