Does a Parent’s Substance Abuse or Addiction Affect Child Custody in North Carolina?

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “Does adultery affect who gets custody?”


A partner’s addiction or problem with alcohol or drugs can put a significant strain on your relationship. In fact, addiction issues are one of the most common reasons for divorce. When marriage involves children, either parent’s substance abuse or addiction can have a detrimental effect on children.

various-abusive-drugs-Mecklenburg-Union-County-Iredell-County-Child-Custody-Lawyer-300x225A parent’s drug or alcohol abuse can have negative impacts on children, including:

  • Exposure to drugs and dangerous substances at home;
  • Child neglect or abuse when a parent is impaired;
  • Increased risk of domestic violence;
  • Being around people who have a bad influence on children; and
  • Lack of financial stability for children due to frequent arrests or constant impairment.


How Does a Parent’s Substance Abuse or Addiction Impact Child Custody?

Under North Carolina’s law, a continuing relationship with both parents is presumed to be in the best interest of the child. However, a judge will consider a multitude of factors before awarding custody to parents.

Some of the factors a judge will take into account when awarding child custody are:

  • Addictions or substance abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Mental illnesses
  • Criminal history

Courts in North Carolina take children’s safety seriously, which is why a parent’s addiction or problems with alcohol or drugs is likely to influence the outcome of a child custody case, especially if the parent does not want to seek addiction treatment.

When a parent has an addiction or issues with substance abuse, the court is likely to impose restrictions on a parent’s visitation and custody rights. As mentioned earlier, North Carolina courts make custody decisions based on the child’s best interests.


Drug or Alcohol Use and Restricted Visitation in North Carolina

When a parent has an addiction or substance abuse, a court is likely to restrict the parent’s visitation until after they can demonstrate evidence that they no longer consume drugs or alcohol.

In many custody cases involving a parent who has problems with alcohol or drugs, a court may order the parent to seek treatment and submit to drug testing in order to regain custody and visitation rights.

A judge is likely to expand the parent’s access to their children if they can show commitment to treatment as well as evidence such as proof of therapy. When a parent has problems with alcohol or drugs, the court must ensure the child’s safety and consider the child’s best interest when limiting or expanding a parent’s visitation rights.


Does the Other Parent Have a Drug or Alcohol Problem?

If you are getting divorced and are aware of your former spouse’s drug or alcohol problem, it may be wise to bring this issue to the judge’s attention. If you are willing to raise this issue during your child custody proceedings, you should begin collecting evidence and documents to prove that the other parent could endanger your children or is unfit to care for your child.

If you are concerned about your child’s safety due to the other parent’s substance abuse or addiction, it is advised to consult with a Charlotte child custody attorney to explore your options. Speak with a lawyer before refusing visitation. Get a phone or video consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.







The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.





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