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Drug and alcohol abuse can impact child custody in California

There are many reasons why couples decide to divorce. Issues with addiction, including drugs and alcohol, pornography and gambling issues, are a major contributing factor to the decline of marriages. When one spouse becomes addicted or starts engaging in unsafe behavior, it can put the whole family at risk.

In some cases, financial issues arise. One spouse may divert household funds to support the addiction. Other times, the strong emotions related to addiction can cause a spouse to lash out, becoming physically or emotionally violent. Regardless of how addiction has impacted your marriage, if you're considering divorce, you likely want to know how substance abuse can impact the child custody proceedings.

The courts try to focus on the best interests of the children

When the courts create a parenting plan for children in a divorce, the primary guiding consideration must be the best interests of the children involved. In most cases, the courts agree with the idea that maintaining an ongoing, positive relationship with both parents is the best outcome for a child in a divorce. This may lead to shared physical and legal custody, or it could result in the non-custodial parent receiving liberal amounts of visitation and parenting time.

However, when there is a history of abuse, neglect or addiction, the courts may take that into consideration. A person who is dependent on chemicals may neglect children while under the influence. Those who have abused their children or engaged in abuse of a spouse in front of the children could create an unsafe environment for the children. So long as there is evidence of abuse or addiction, the courts will consider it when making parenting decisions.

Document everything to support claims of addiction

Many people with substance abuse issues can cover their issues up rather well. Functional addicts can maintain jobs and social contacts without people realizing they are drunk or high much of the time. You cannot assume that your spouse will fail a chemical test or show up to an important meeting or hearing under the influence.

Instead, you should document habits to support your custody case. Receipts for cash withdrawals for drugs or evidence of alcohol purchases can help. So can social media posts that brag about drinking or drug use. Photos and videos from cellphones can also help. In some cases, your only option may be a hand written journal, detailing each time your spouse comes home under the influence and how it impacts the children.

No matter how difficult the divorce process may be, it's important that you remain focused on your children at every step. Doing so will not only help to solidify your case for custody, it will reduce the impact of your divorce on the children in the home.

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