In a divorce where substance abuse is a concern and children are involved, Texas courts will consider the best interests of the child before making any kind of custody arrangements. If it's shown that a parent's addiction negatively impacts his or her ability to care for the child, the court could severely restrict the terms of visitation or even award conservatorship of the child permanently to the sober parent. However, there are steps a parent battling substance abuse can take to prove to the court that he or she is capable of co-parenting and providing a safe, stable home for the child.
When determining what is in the best interest of the child, the court will consider certain factors. Can the parent meet the child's physical and emotional needs? Can they provide a safe, nurturing environment and a stable home situation? Convincing the court that you can meet these requirements should always be foremost in your mind. Following these points will help you do that.
- Comply completely with all court orders. These could include entering a rehabilitation facility, attending rehabilitation counseling, and submitting to random drug and/or alcohol testing. Be respectful and do whatever is asked of you. You need to be the poster child of sobriety.
- Get a job and a stable home – Having a stable home shows you can provide a safe living environment and having a job shows you are responsible and can maintain that environment. This shows the court you are willing to put your child's needs before anything else.
- Guidance and Support – There are various types of support you can look to for help in learning to control your addiction. You could become a member of a 12-step program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. There are also online groups that you could participate in virtually. Some churches provide group therapy that can help you spiritually. Family and friends are also very important, since they're available whenever you need them, and they have a vested interest in your recovery. You might also work with a therapist to develop an “aftercare” plan for daily living once your rehabilitation therapy is complete. All of these show the court that you have sought out resources to help you on your difficult journey and are working towards a life without substance abuse.
- Interaction with your child – Are you still involved in your child's life during your recovery? Do you attend extracirricular activities or spend as much time as possible with your child? Does your child enjoy being around you? The court doesn't just look at the endgame. By spending as much quality time with your child as possible, you are showing how much being a parent really means to you.
- How long have you been sober? – The longer, the stronger! The more time you stay sober, the more the court will see how committed you are. It also helps to have a therapist or sponsor who can testify about how committed you are to your sobriety.
Losing conservatorship of your child is painful. It's hard to accept that the court feels your child would be better off with someone else. However, if you are willing to cooperate with all court orders and show you are committed to controlling your substance abuse issues, you can make it down that long road, prove you are a fit parent, and become an active part of your child's life again.