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Can I obtain legal custody if I have a history of substance abuse?

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2023 | Child Custody

A child’s growth and development primarily depend on their parents’ decisions, such as choosing their school, providing them with proper health care and cultivating their religious beliefs. Any parent would want to have an active part in making major life decisions for their child.

However, not all parents have this right. During child custody determination, courts can give one parent the sole legal custody and leave the other without decision-making rights.

Understanding the courts’ determination process

Under Arizona custody laws, the courts consider several factors, corresponding to the child’s best interests, when awarding sole or joint legal custody. These factors include each parent’s past, present and future relationship with the child and the child’s adjustment to their home, school and community.

Substance abuse: An implicit factor

Though the law does not expressly state a parent’s history of substance abuse as a factor when determining legal decision-making and parenting time, the courts may still consider this as a relevant circumstance when determining what is best for the child’s interests. Hence, if one parent has a history or ongoing habit of drinking alcohol, this might affect the court’s decision to award sole legal custody to the other parent.

Drug conviction provides rebuttable presumption of sole legal custody

When substance abuse specifically pertains to drug use, Arizona custody laws provide that if a parent has been convicted of any drug offense, there is a rebuttable presumption that legal custody, whether sole or joint, by them is not in the child’s best interests.

Focusing on children’s best interests

Understandably, parents want to actively participate in their children’s growth and development, regardless of the circumstances. However, if a parent is not in a stable and healthy physical, mental and emotional space, it might not be best to pursue legal decision-making custody, at least for the time being.

Nevertheless, parents with a history of substance abuse do have remedies, depending on their situation. For instance, those with drug use convictions can rebut the presumption by providing the necessary evidence. Furthermore, parents who have gone to therapy and intervention programs may later file for custody modifications.