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Parental Addiction: Child Custody, Recovery, & Rebuilding Trust

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

Addiction and Parental Fitness in Morris County Families

Family and Divorce Attorneys Helping Families across Randolph, Denville, Hanover, Morristown, and Morris County

Nationwide, parental addiction seems to be slowly dismantling the social fabric of once thriving homes and communities. As the opioid epidemic devastates families across the country, a record number of children are being funneled into state foster care systems, putting a strain on already limited government resources and financially ill-equipped grandparents who are often tasked with raising grandchildren as a result of neglect and abandonment.

According to a spokesperson for New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families, “It seems to be happening all over the state” and agencies feel this crisis of substance abuse, opioid dependency and foster care admission is “impounding trauma upon trauma”.

New Jersey child custody laws protect the safety and welfare of the child.  During divorce and child custody litigation, your or the other parent’s substance abuse use can significantly affect parenting time or limit access to the children. In addition, current and future discussions or modifications in parenting or visitation schedules can be impacted by one parent’s struggle with drugs and/or alcohol.

If you are a parent trying to protect your child from a co-parent battling substance abuse problems, and want them to seek the support and help that they need, or you are someone who is fighting not to lose your child while you also battle addiction issues, it’s likely you will need legal representation in family court. 

Maybe you are the concerned grandparent of a child whose parent is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, and whose priority is the health and well-being of your grandchild. Consulting an attorney who is knowledgeable about grandparents’ rights and potential guardianship may be the best option available for you.

At Jacobs Berger our attorneys understand that substance abuse and family dynamics can be complicated. Speak with a member of our attorney team today regarding your options for securing a child custody agreement which accurately reflects your child or grandchild’s best interests, and protects them from potentially damaging influence from dangerous behaviors. 

Parental Addiction & Fitness Reviewed by Morristown Family Lawyers

N.J. Stat. Ann. 9:2-4 mandates that during child custody rulings, family courts must consider the “fitness” of each parent. According to the law, a parent is only deemed unfit when his or her conduct has had a substantial adverse effect on the child. Behaviors that characterize the unfit parent include:

  • drug or alcohol use
  • physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • certified severe mental illness or medical condition
  • incarceration: current and previous convictions (e.g., violent or sexual offenses)
  • abandonment or neglect
  • poor judgment: (i.e., that resulted in inadequate supervision, exposure to dangerous situations or people, & unhealthy environments)

Recovery & Treatment Increases Child Custody Options in NJ

According to a federal government report, 4 out of 10 foster children have a parent with substance abuse issues.  Even if your child goes to foster care or is placed under the guardianship of their grandparents for a time, that does not mean you have lost custody permanently.

While separation from one´s children is painful, it can be difficult to properly attend to a child’s needs while in the grip of an addiction. Seeking treatment, gives a parent a better chance at being better able to care themselves, their children, and potentially a more healthy relationship with their co-parent.

If you suffer from addiction or have been arrested for an addiction-related offense which resulted in you losing custody, seeking and completing treatment is a positive step towards re-securing your parental rights. Once treatment is completed, and a parent can show they are in recovery, that parent may wish to file a child custody modification.

In order to get custody or visitation, courts may require drug testing to show that the co-parent is substance-free. It´s also possible that due to a court order, the alcoholic co-parent will be required to submit to random alcohol testing to ensure sobriety. It may take some time for the parent in recovery to rebuild trust with their co-parent and children, but over time, the family will be better off if rehab and treatment is pursued.

Whether you are a parent concerned over a co-parent’s addiction, or a recovering from the disease that is addiction and seeking to spend more time with your children, it is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced child custody attorney in order to better understand your rights and options, and to help and guide you to a successful resolution of your child custody modification.

Contact Our East Hanover Child Custody and Parental Addiction Recovery Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients and families to fairly and creatively resolve family law matters of all kinds in towns across New Jersey and Morris County, including Morristown, Madison, Randolph, Dover, Denville, Florham Park, East Hanover and the surrounding communities.

Not only do we offer this unique approach of helping our clients to build successful foundations for their legal and parental futures, we also regularly work with mental health professionals so that any and all of your needs during the-often-difficult divorce or child custody process can be met, and addressed.

To speak with a member of our attorney team today in a strategic planning session regarding a parent’s substance abuse and how it may affect a divorce, child custody settlement, child custody arrangement or modification, or to speak with us regarding any other divorce or family law matter, please contact us online or through our Morristown office at (973) 710-4366.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.