Will Your Ex's Substance Abuse Impact Your Parenting Rights?

Sometimes, people enter into a marriage with someone they know has an issue with chemical dependence. Maybe when you dated and celebrated your engagement and wedding, your spouse had his or her alcohol or drug abuse under control. Then, after years of marriage, signs and red flags began popping up all over.

Maybe your spouse started coming home clearly intoxicated. Perhaps he or she stayed out late to avoid getting caught when arriving home. You may have noticed money or other valuables disappearing, potentially to feed an addiction. If you've decided to leave and file for divorce, you may find yourself worrying about how your ex's addiction will impact the outcome of your custody proceedings.

The courts in Colorado focus on the kids in these matters

The biggest concern that guides the decisions regarding minor children and adult children with special needs will always be the best interests of the children. Understanding how the courts determine the best interest of your dependents can help you predict the likely outcome of your parenting time hearings.

Instead of referring to the care of your children as custody, the Colorado courts now call these obligations "allocation of parental responsibilities." Those responsibilities include two critical areas, including parenting time and decision-making authority. When the courts allocate both decision-making powers and parenting time, they will focus on the needs of the child.

Generally, the courts prefer shared parenting time and authority, but serious substance abuse issues could impact how they decide to allocate both time and authority between you and your spouse.

Does intoxication prevent your spouse from parenting?

When determining how to allocate responsibilities, the courts will consider the existing relationship between the children and parents involved. They will also look at the physical and mental health of all parties, the ability of the parents to put the needs of the child first and any history of abuse or neglect.

Getting so drunk or high that you can't respond to your children or provide adequate care is a form of neglect. Screaming at and insulting or threatening the children or a spouse when drunk could be a form of abuse. If you have documentation of serious chemical dependence issues with your spouse, you should provide this information to the courts to protect your children from a dangerous situation.

The courts will consider modification in the future as well

You should know that any divorce decree involving reduced parenting time or authority for one parent can always change in the future. If your spouse undergoes treatment or completes parenting classes, for example, the courts may consider modifying the allocation of parenting time and decision-making authority.

Try to focus on the best interests of your children, which would include a healthy relationship with two sober parents. Ideally, your spouse will understand the importance of being there for the kids and focus on recovery, not resentment.