Drug and alcohol addiction is a prevalent issue for many families in the United States. When one parent develops a drug or alcohol addiction, or a recovering addict relapses, the other parent may understandably want to modify the custody arrangements to protect their children. If the non-custodial parent is struggling, the custodial parent may ask the court to restrict or reduce their visitation time. Other times, the parent with primary custody will develop a drug or drinking problem, and the non-custodial parent will petition for full custody. The process for modifying a child custody order is a little different than establishing an initial custody order. But there are actions you can take to protect your child’s wellbeing during this difficult time.
Custody Modification In South Carolina
After an initial child custody order is in place, either parent can request a modification as long as:
- There is a significant change in circumstances
- This change in circumstances occurred sometime after the initial (or most recent) custody order was entered
- The change in circumstances impacts the child’s best interests or wellbeing in a substantial way
The emergence of a drug or drinking problem is certainly a significant change in circumstances that can affect the child’s wellbeing. However, there is a high standard of substantiation required to modify a child custody order. The petitioning parent must be able to convincingly prove that the change would be in the best interest of the child.
Proving Drug Abuse & Alcoholism In Custody Cases
If you know or suspect substance abuse has become a problem for your child’s other parent, be prepared to provide proof for your claims. In cases of alleged drug use, a simple drug test can be ordered. Make sure you can pass the drug test, too. It is standard to order a drug test for both parents if either parent’s sobriety is questioned.
Substantiating claims of alcohol abuse can be trickier. It is not unlawful for parents (over the age of 21) to consume alcohol, even in front of their children. You must be able to show the parent’s drinking constitutes immoral conduct that creates an unstable environment for the child. If the parent has been charged with DUI, public intoxication, or disorderly conduct, this is good evidence that their drinking has become a problem. Witness testimony can also be helpful. If a neighbor testifies that they often hear loud fighting coming from the parent’s apartment at night and the parent frequently smells of alcohol, this can give credit to your claim that the child is in an unstable environment.
If there is strong evidence the child faces a high risk of neglect or abuse, the judge may order the parent to enter treatment for substance abuse before reinstating custody or visitation rights. However, it is very rare that a parent will lose rights to their children without being given the opportunity to correct the behavior.
Charleston, SC Child Custody Lawyers
If you need a child custody modification, the family law attorneys at McCoy & Stokes, LLC can help. Contact our office in Charleston, SC today to schedule a consultation.