In any child custody proceedings, the court’s ultimate goal is to protect the best interests of the child.  In general, the court sees it in the child’s best interests to give joint custody to both parents, but if one parent is hiding a secret or is involved in dangerous activities that could harm the child, courts may go so far as to strip them of custody.  If you are going through child custody proceedings where one of the parents or another household family member has a substance abuse problem, talk to an attorney today.  The Ventura child custody lawyers at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth explain how a drug addiction can affect custody issues under CA law.

Does a Drug Addiction Mean I Can’t Get Custody?

It is important to understand that California’s child custody laws allow more options than simply “having custody” or not.  Both parents can share legal and physical custody in a “joint custody” situation.  Joint custody can come in many varieties, which have different levels of legal and physical custody.  In many cases, physical custody is given to both parents, but may be divided throughout the year.  For example, one parent may have their children to live in their house most of the week, but the other parent may get the kids on alternating weekends and holidays.  In this case, the parent who has the children most of the year is the “primary custodial parent,” but the other parent still has physical custody.

Legal custody, unlike physical custody, is shared fully.  This means that both parents with legal custody have full power to make decisions in their children’s lives.  Many courts require both parents to agree or get the other parent’s consent in many situations, but both parents have equal powers to be their children’s parent.

If a judge thinks that something like a drug addiction, alcoholism, substance abuse problem, or criminal activity makes one parent a bad example for their child, they may have their California child custody rights reduced or removed.  Judges have multiple options and do not always need to resort to removing custody rights entirely.  For instance, a court could decide that a parent is too unstable or that their drug addiction poses a risk to the child, but they may allow them to continue to have legal custody to make decisions about the child’s education, religion, healthcare, etc.  Instead of fully stripping the parent of custody rights, the judge may decide that a parent cannot see their child, and that they should not have physical custody or visitation rights.

In cases of severe addictions or dangerous behaviors, a judge may remove all parental rights from a parent.  If the parent is a danger to themselves or their kids, California courts do have the power to take away custody rights entirely.

Can My Ex’s Drug Use Help Me Get Custody?

As mentioned, many courts will try to give joint custody whenever possible.  As long as both parents are able to provide sufficient emotional and physical care for their children, support them in their homes, and raise them without special risks from their criminal background, drug use, or other substance abuse, courts typically award both parents joint custody.

However, if you have information that calls into question the other parent’s ability to properly provide for your child’s best interests, you should tell the court.  In many cases, a judge would have no reason to know about any drug use or abuse, unless you report it.

Many times, something like drug abuse does not come to light until after the court has already made its decisions.  Realistically, an addict would try to prevent knowledge of their addiction from reaching the judge so that they can still get custody.  If there are any changes in either parent’s fitness (or if new information comes to light), that may entitle you to submit a request for the judge to modify or reconsider their custody decisions.

Filing a petition for child custody modification can convince the judge to reopen your custody case and make a new decision based on the new information.  If you find out that the other parent was arrested for drug possession, checked into rehab, or was caught while on a bender, that kind of information can be essential in your custody case.  Take this information to an attorney who can file for child custody modification, and the judge may be able to strip the other parent of custody.  At the very least, they may temporarily modify custody orders to get your children out of the addicted parent’s house and back to a safer environment.

Remember that drug use in the household is an important consideration for a child custody judge, even if it’s not the parent that is addicted to drugs.  If an older sibling or another adult in the household has a substance abuse issue, that is still important information for the court.

Our Ventura Child Custody Lawyers Can Help with Your CA Custody Dispute

If you are involved in a custody dispute in the Ventura, CA area, take your case to our Ventura family law attorneys.  The lawyers at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth represent parents in custody battles and other related issues, such as divorce cases and child support disputes.  For a free consultation on your case, contact our law offices today at (805) 643-5555.