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What to do when your co-parent has a substance abuse problem

You always knew that your ex drank a little too much and maybe used marijuana occasionally. However, the kids never saw it. Therefore, it was nothing that you considered worth bringing up in the custody negotiations.

Since the divorce, however, you've been hearing things from the kids and mutual friends (and possibly observing things yourself) that lead you to believe your co-parent may have moved into a full-blown substance abuse problem. You're concerned for the safety of your kids when they're with their other parent.

If you've discussed the matter with your ex, but he or she is in denial or unwilling to seek help or change the behavior, you may have to take action through the court. It's helpful if you come armed with some evidence. This can include police reports, including arrests for DUI or drug-related charges. You should also document on your own any incidents where you've witnessed your co-parent drinking or using drugs in front of the kids or engaging in other potentially unsafe or neglectful behavior as the result of being under the influence.

Depending on how serious the situation is, you may want to seek an immediate suspension of your co-parent's visitation rights and potentially even get a restraining order. Understand that a judge will need to see documentation of the situation to confirm that your claims are valid. The judge may allow your ex to have supervised visitation with your kids while the matter is being investigated.

If the judge is convinced that your co-parent's substance abuse problem is a danger to your kids' safety and well-being, the other parent may be required to enter rehab or take other steps to get clean and sober. Often, supervised visitation is required through that process and until the parent has completed a recovery program or otherwise demonstrated parental fitness.

Going to court to report a co-parent's substance abuse issue is no small matter. However, your primary responsibility is to your children. Your Tennessee family law attorney can offer valuable guidance as you deal with this difficult matter.

Source: Verywell Family, "Child Custody & Substance Abuse," Jennifer Wolf, accessed May 23, 2018

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