How the court views a parent’s struggle with drug and/or alcohol abuse
A parent’s struggle with drug or alcohol abuse can have a hugely detrimental impact on their relationship with their children. There are varying risks posed by parents under the influence of drugs or an excessive amount of alcohol whilst children are in their care. Parental capacity can be severely impaired by these sorts of addictions. Lack of sufficient attention or supervision may arise when a parent is a regular user of cannabis. At the other end of the spectrum, persons using crystal methamphetamine or ‘Ice’ often exhibit violent tendencies, which can be a real risk to a child’s physical safety. Under the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001, parties are required to disclose any allegations of drug and alcohol use prior to filing an application in the Federal Circuit Court. So what sort of effect will such allegations have on parenting proceedings?
The best interests of the child
Courts in the family law jurisdiction look at what is in the “best interests of the child” when making decisions about parenting disputes. The court will weigh up the benefit of a child having a meaningful relationship with each parent with the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm. Matters are always dealt with on a case-by-case basis, however, habitual and continual drug or alcohol abuse is historically considered by judges to pose a risk of harm to the child.
Courts are often required to make interim parenting orders before evidence regarding a parent’s drug or alcohol use can be tested at trial. Where such allegations are raised, judges will usually err on the side of caution.
A judge may order that a party undergo urinalysis or other forms of testing, or that a parent participate in a drug and alcohol counselling program. Further, it may be ordered that the parent spend supervised time with the child until such time as further evidence can be provided to disprove the allegations or show rehabilitation.
If you are a parent attempting to co-parent with a former partner who suffers from drug use or alcoholism, or are a person suffering these addictions yourself, we can assist you throughout this difficult time. Please don’t hesitate to contact myself or the Turnbull Hill team on 1800 994 279 or via email.