Alcohol and Drug Misuse in Child Disputes

09 September 2021 Blog Donna Goodsell

When a couple separates, disputes over the arrangements for children are often the most contentious and emotionally charged. Ideally, these matters should be resolved through negotiation, mediation and by mutual consent but, sadly, this is often not the case.

When an allegation of substance misuse arises during a dispute over children it has the potential to be extremely damaging if not handled correctly.

Talk to Goodsells Family Law today if you believe your former partner has a drink or drug problem that affects their ability to care for your children. Likewise, if such allegations have been made against you, our child law solicitor can help.

When your former partner claims you have alcohol and/or drug problems

Such allegations will be taken seriously by a court in any Children Act dispute, however, the court does not expect parents to be perfect, although will always seek to ensure that the child's welfare is the priority when making a court order.

The court will always start at the point that the child should, if at all possible, maintain a relationship with both parents, so if you have substance abuse issues, it will be necessary for you to demonstrate that you are seeking help or willing to receive help. Acknowledgment of your problem will demonstrate a commitment to your relationship with your children.

While the court will be as understanding as it can be in respect of your willingness to address your substance abuse issues, if you fail to change your behaviour the court has the power both to restrict the time you spend with your children and order that such contact be supervised.

If you feel the allegations are unjust, you should still be prepared to act. Firstly, you should take a realistic look at your substance use. Ask yourself whether there are any changes you could make in order to conciliate the other parent. Again, a proactive step that can demonstrate your dedication to your children.

Lastly, allegations of substance misuse by a co-parent are sometimes made during a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour in order to cast you as an "unfit parent". If your former partner is abusing you in this way, you should speak to a Family Solicitor who is experienced in providing legal protection from domestic abuse.

When you believe your former partner has a substance abuse issue

If you feel that the co-parent's behaviour puts your children at risk, you should raise your concerns as early as possible.

Patterns of concerning behaviour may include:

  • the co-parent regularly drives while under the influence of alcohol or drugs

  • their substance misuse regularly makes them late to drop off or pick up the children from school

  • they drink or take drugs while the children are staying with them

  • their alcohol/drug misuse has caused them to be arrested by the police

These and similar behaviours could put your children at risk and the court can take steps to ensure their welfare is maintained.

However, as mentioned above, a Family Court will only prohibit contact in situations where they feel a child is at risk, so an accusation of substance misuse is not a "ticket" to remove the other parent from your children's lives.

The Family Court may wish to see proof of alcohol/drug abuse allegations and it is likely that you will be required to pay the bill for testing, which can be expensive. Mediation can be a useful tool for tackling substance abuse issues as a third-party mediator will be trained in methods for discussing such problems and suggesting solutions.

Specialist Child Law Solicitor in London

Goodsells Family Law has years of experience in complex Child Law cases and we can provide assistance for divorcing and separating couples experiencing the most contentious of issues.

We provide sensitive, pragmatic legal advice to help you through the complex and emotionally difficult nature of matters relating to substance misuse and children.

Whatever your circumstances, contact Goodsells Family Law by calling 020 7622 2221 or complete our online enquiry form.