Parents who are divorcing in Nebraska are often concerned about how the court might determine child custody. In cases where substance abuse is an issue, both parents may wonder how it will impact the outcome. The short answer is that a family court makes custody determinations on a case-by-case basis, and drug or alcohol use is not strictly a bar to custody. In every child custody case, the court’s decision turns on the best interests of the child.
Different types of substance issues
The words dependence, abuse and addiction are often seen as synonyms, but there are subtle differences in their meanings. Dependence is more likely to refer to a prescription drug habit, like opioids, or even a prescription drug requirement, like blood pressure medication. Abuse generally refers to the misuse or overuse of drugs or alcohol, but not necessarily rising to the level of addiction. Addiction indicates that the person depends on or craves alcohol or drugs beyond his or her control.
Child custody determinations
The court in a child custody matter will make its determination based on the best interests of the child. Any number of factors may be relied upon in making the determination, including the age of the child, the parents’ respective living situations, the impact of a change in the child’s routines and the child’s physical safety. The court will also consider any substance abuse issues the parents may have.
Evidence of addiction
If dependency or substance abuse is an issue in a child custody matter, the family court has the power to order drug testing. The consequences of failing tests or failing to comply with testing could include denial of custody or loss of visitation. Both parents have the right to offer evidence to support or contradict a charge of substance abuse. Such evidence could include records of drug or alcohol use created by the other parent or records of convictions or processes involving other authorities. Substance abuse issues are taken very seriously by family courts, but they also have compassion for those who want to get better.