Divorce Magazine recently pointed to a study that was published in the Family and Conciliation Court Review in 1992. Unfortunately, the age of the study cannot tell us much regarding current trends, but according to findings from 1,669 mediation sessions conducted in California family courts, it was determined that parents expressed serious concerns about their co-parent’s ability to parent.
While the greatest concerns related to child neglect and physical or sexual abuse, 36 percent said they “had serious doubts about the other parent because of substance abuse,” the website stated.
Not An Exact Science
Unfortunately, followup research since that now 22-year-old study has been sparse. Earlier research from the 1980s suggested co-parents involved in high conflict following divorce were more likely to have severe psychopathology, personality disorders, and domestic abuse problems (Hauser, 1985; Kressel, Jaffe, N., et al., 1980).
These studies also indicated that about 25 percent of “high-conflict parents” may have had problems with substance abuse.
Clearly, this isn’t an exact science — all the more concerning since these problems affect a large amount of children across the nation. If you’re concerned that your ex is exhibiting signs of substance abuse, here are the best steps that you can take to protect your child.
Contact An Attorney.
Deciding to file for divorce on your own isn’t advisable under these circumstances as a spouse dealing with substance abuse issues is not likely to act rationally, and you really need your spouse’s support for a do-it-yourself divorce to have the full beneficial effects. Since substance abuse often takes cooperative divorce off the table, contact an attorney who specializes in family law right away.
Courts are in the business of doing two things with regard to divorce: a) Finding an equitable solution for both spouses; and b) Making a final judgment that is in the best interests of the children involved. While a) may be somewhat discouraging with regard to how custodial agreements are structured in court, b) will always trump a) if you can point to specific examples of substance abuse issues. Therefore, document everything. Record conversations. Write down dates and times of incidents that cause you concern. Do your best to keep it from becoming a my-word-against-my-spouse’s sort of thing. It’ll carry a lot more weight when the time comes for a final judgment.
Substance abuse can cause psychological and physical damage to you and your children. Don’t let it set the tone for your life, married or otherwise.
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