In child-custody cases, the court aims to keep the child in the home with at least one parent and allow the non-custodial parent to see the child regularly (if possible). One of the many parental issues that may affect child custody is the existence of drug and alcohol use, abuse, or addiction by one or both of the parents. Unfortunately, handling this issue is not always as simple as granting custody of the child to the parent who does not use drugs or alcohol, or putting the child in foster care if both parents are substance abusers.
These goals do not indicate that the issue of drug and alcohol abuse is taken lightly. Parents who have drug and alcohol abuse problems may lose custody, and may not be allowed to visit their children unsupervised—or at all, in some cases. Frequent drug and alcohol testing is also commonly required as a condition of either visitation or custody. Of course, substance abuse must be proven; it is not enough for one parent to accuse the other.
After proving the abuse (usually through hair and nail tests and breathalyzers), the judge will determine what type of custody or visitation the parent should have. Parents with substance abuse problems will generally not get custody of their children. Instead, the court may order supervised visits until the parent can prove continued sobriety. It will then be up to the judge to decide how long the parent must be clean and sober before they are allowed unsupervised visits with their children.