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Child Custody And Substance Abuse


Child custody is a serious matter to all involved, including the state of Nevada. It is the public policy of the state that children should be placed with those who will act in their best interests. When a parent has substance abuse problems, the question of whether they can act in their children’s best interests becomes part of the debate. If you have problems with substance abuse, your custodial rights are at risk and the odds of having your custodial rights substantially diminished markedly increase, especially with certain substances.

Legal vs Illegal Substances

One common question that may come up in your case is the difference between ingesting acceptable amounts of legal substances and abusing either legal or illegal drinks or drugs. Many people have mental or physical conditions which require medication, or they drink a single beer with dinner, and that is generally not enough to endanger one’s fitness as a parent. However, use of any substance to excess can be dangerous and destructive, and when that occurs, courts care very little about what is being abused, especially if it puts children in danger.

Nevada law states that mental or physical illness and substance abuse may be considered in terms of assessing parental unfitness, but only if they render “[the parent] consistently unable to care for” the child’s needs. If one is mentally or physically ill, it does not automatically preclude joint or even primary custody, especially if that parent can demonstrate that their illness and/or any attendant substance use is well managed.

Changing Custody

If you already have a custody determination in place, courts will generally act on substance abuse issues relatively quickly, due to public policy and a responsibility to act in the best interests of the children. Depending on the nature of the situation, it may be a good idea to even call Child Protective Services, if you truly believe that your ex-spouse is actively endangering the children by engaging in such substance use. This can feel punitive, but if your children may be in danger, it can be the right call.

While parental unfitness due to substance abuse can be somewhat subjective to interpret, numerous factors are weighed in order to arrive at a determination regarding fitness and a child’s best interests. State public policy encourages children having contact with both parents even after a divorce or separation, but this policy can be insufficient if substance abuse will actively endanger a child’s welfare. Drug testing may be ordered at any time during the initial matter or at the time a modification is requested, and any findings can and will be acted upon.

Call on An Experienced Attorney

Substance abuse can cause untold pain and break up families. It can also cause untold problems for children. If you have custody issues due to your ex’s substance abuse, contact the lawyers at the Kainen Law Group. We will fight for your children’s well-being. Call us today to set up an initial appointment.


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