Child Custody & Substance Abuse Issues on Long Island
When Long Island parents decide to end a relationship, regardless of whether that relationship is a marriage, custody of the child or children often becomes a major, and sometimes heated issue. Child custody is often an emotional issue in the best of circumstances, but when drug or alcohol abuse by one parent is involved or suspected, it becomes all the more complex.
General Rules of Child Custody on Long Island
As a preliminary matter, child custody is the parent’s legal right to direct and control their child’s upbringing. Each parent is, at the outset, permitted to request custody and visitation of their child(ren) during divorce proceedings and in Family Court. Typically, although only one parent may be granted custody of their child(ren), the other parent may still be entitled to visitation.
In New York, the court will consider the best interests of the child(ren) when making any decisions regarding custody and visitation. When using this standard, the judge may consider who the primary caretaker has been, the home environment of each parent, the ability of the parent to provide intellectual and emotional support, any patterns of child abuse and/or domestic violence by either parent, and, the “fitness” of each parent to be a stable caregiver.
Current Sobriety & Child Custody
Unfortunately, in many child custody cases, drugs or some other substance, play a role. Whether it’s alcohol, illegal substances, or abuse of prescription pills, abuse of these substances will have an impact on your child custody case. However, past issues with substance abuse do not necessarily prevent a court from awarding visitation. If a parent is on the right track and remains sober, courts will often award unsupervised visitation. Notwithstanding, it’s very important to remember that the best interests of the child will always come first with the court. Although the court may ultimately want the child to have a relationship with both parents, it will weigh the potential benefits and burdens of allowing visitation with a recovering addict parent.
Current Substance Abuse Cases
At the outset, it’s important to note that a parent’s struggle with substance abuse does not automatically mean that a parent will be denied custody or visitation rights. The court must certainly take the totality of the circumstances into account, but it does not outright exclude one parent from enjoying time with the child.
In almost all cases, if substance abuse is alleged, the court will immediately step in and investigate to determine whether the allegations are true. The most common way the allegations are investigated is through a drug test. Generally, both parties will be subjected to the test.
What If I Test Positive?
If the parent tests positive for substance abuse, the court will typically remove the child from that parent’s physical custody. Custody may then be granted to the other parent or to a third-party, such as a grandparent. The parent that tested positive may still be entitled to visitation, although those visits are usually supervised. A family member or friend may supervise, or the Department of Social Services may shoulder that responsibility. Someone must be present at all times in order to ensure the parent is acting as a positive influence on the child. In some cases, drug tests will be required prior to visits, and if the parent fails the drug test the visit may be cancelled. If a number of visits are cancelled for this reason, the court may withdraw supervised visitations altogether.
If you are in the process of a child custody or matrimonial case, especially if substance abuse is involved, please call our Office at 631-923-1910 and set up your complimentary consultation with one of our experienced Long Island Divorce and Family Law Attorneys.
Have More Questions About Child Custody? Contact Us
If you are in the process of a child custody or matrimonial case, especially if substance abuse is involved, we can help. Contact our Long Island Divorce & Family Law firm at 631-629-2545 to set up your free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.
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