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Will a history of substance abuse impact custody in your divorce?

Getting a divorce means ending what was likely the most important relationship in your life. It also means major changes to other important relationships, such as the ones between you and your children. You may worry about the outcome of custody proceedings, particularly if you and your spouse cannot agree to terms for shared custody.

There are many factors that can impact the outcome of a Washington state divorce, especially when the courts must decide the custody arrangements or parenting plan for minor children. In some cases, issues like substance abuse or addiction can impact the outcome of custody decisions. If you have struggled with addiction or are leaving someone who has an addition issue, you likely want to know how that could affect custody proceedings.

The courts look to the best interest of the children

When the courts must create a parenting plan and decide the terms of custody in a contentious divorce, they look at many different factors. Any decision they reach, however, should be based on the best interests of the children. In general, that includes maintaining a healthy and loving relationship with both parents, except in cases of abuse or neglect. Courts prefer shared or joint custody arrangements.

Many times, a history of substance abuse serves as a red flag for potential abuse and neglect. Intoxicated parents cannot adequately care for the children in their charge, and some substances, including alcohol, could increase the risk of physical or emotional abuse. If there is a documented history of addiction or substance abuse in your marriage, the courts will likely consider that when deciding on custody arrangements.

If you worry that your spouse's alcohol or drug use could leave your children in a dangerous situation, you should attempt to address the issue as soon as possible. Doing so will help ensure that your children aren't needlessly put at risk by your ex's addiction.

Seeking treatment can show the courts you're focused on the kids

If you have a history of substance use, dependence or addiction, your spouse could use that to influence the court's decision regarding child custody. The courts could decide that substance abuse issues place your children at unnecessary risk. While you may think that seeking treatment is an admission of the issue, it can help your case for shared custody of the children.

Instead of ignoring what could become a serious issue, seeking substance abuse therapy or rehabilitation services shows that you're committed to being healthy and providing a stable environment for your children.

Many people with addictions spend years hiding their issue or denying that they need help. Seeking services on your own to combat your addiction can establish a willingness to grow and improve that could help your case for shared custody or visitation with the children.

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