If your ex-spouse's drug or alcohol use contributed to the conflict in your marriage, you likely have concerns about his or her ability to care for the kids when when you are not present. Perhaps this wasn't an issue when you were married because you were always on hand. Now, however, there may be days at a time when your spouse has responsibility for the children.
Seeing evidence that your spouse's substance abuse is getting worse may raise your anxiety. You have a court-issued custody order that requires you to leave the children with your former spouse or face a contempt charge. Do you have another option?
Proving your case to the court
The Texas family courts take alcohol and drug abuse seriously, and they are willing to hear your case if you believe that your spouse is a danger to the children because of his or her substance use. Making the court aware of the situation is the first step. Keeping in mind that courts are reluctant to deny children access to their parents, you will have to assemble evidence that your spouse is unable to care for the children properly or endangers them, for example:
- Documented history of substance abuse
- Police reports
- Testimony from friends and family
- Social media pictures and posts
- Emergency room reports
- DUI or drug arrests
- Evidence of abuse or neglect of the children
- Missed child support payments
It is important to know that alcohol or drug use is not the same as abuse, and the court will be looking for convincing evidence that the use of drugs or alcohol creates an unsafe environment for your children and that your former spouse is not fit to parent them. New evidence that was not in existence at the time of your last final order is required.
Your goals in a custody modification hearing
If the court determines that it would be in the best interests of the child(ren), the court may modify your child custody order to include supervised visitation for your spouse, which means that someone acceptable to the court would have to be present whenever your children spent time with your ex. The order may also require your co-parent to pass a drug or blood alcohol test before having access to the children. These restrictions may be temporary until your spouse faithfully attends substance abuse counseling and can demonstrate a positive change in lifestyle, including the ability to pass drug tests.
Fear for the safety of your children may include seeking a restraining order or requesting that the judge allow no visitation privileges for your spouse. Discussing your goals for modification with an experienced Board-Certified Family Law expert attorney may help you prepare your argument more completely.