Parenting children while struggling with a substance use disorder can exhibit a dangerous situation for everyone involved. In the state of Texas, our family laws consider substance abuse to be a form of child abuse. A child with a parent who is struggling with addiction can be put in many forms of endangerment. Children can be exposed to deadly chemicals, second-hand smoke, violent situations or being left unattended while the parents are out getting high. Under Texas Family Code § 153.002, state courts must operate on the “best interests of the child” principle. If the court deems that the parents cannot offer a “safe, stable, nonviolent environment for the child,” they will take your children away to live in foster care.
For someone who is struggling with an addiction, even the threat of loosing their kids doesn’t make it any easier for them to quit using drugs or alcohol. For some people the threat of losing their kids is what will finally make them decide to get treatment for their addiction. Many Texans have already lost custody and visitation rights for their children and are desperately trying to make things right.
Exhibiting a willingness to change and complying with the courts orders are your best chances to reunite your family. Texas family laws operate on a belief that parents should share custody. If the state has suspended your custody rights, the important thing will be to comply with any and all court orders. If you have been ordered to go into rehabilitation, comply with that order. Once you finish treatment, you can file a motion to get custody of your kids back. If you fail to comply with court orders however, you may have your parental rights permanently terminated.
Texas courts and family law concerning addiction.
When a court makes the decision based on the child’s welfare, it may take several considerations into account. If they are at least 10 years of age, the child’s preference on custody can help determine the ruling of the court. The family’s history of abuse or neglect, substance abuse history, the ability of each parent to care for the child and the physical and emotional needs of the child can all be taken into account when it comes to legal determinations of parenting responsibilities.
In all of this, the goal of the state of Texas is always to provide the safest environment for the child to be raised in. According to the same statute, Texas courts must always make opportunities for both parents to play a role in the child’s life, whenever possible. If one parent is unfit to care for the child due to endangerment from drug or alcohol abuse, the court may require that parent to undergo treatment at a drug rehabilitation facility before further considerations regarding child custody are made.
What happens when one parent lives in another state?
The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act regulates interstate custody arrangements. It was designed to provide a uniform jurisdiction and enforcement mechanisms in custody and visitation matters that transcend interstate boundaries. The law was also created in an effort to deter interstate parental kidnapping. This has been an issue as America is a highly mobile society. People move across the United States for their job or family obligations all the time. This law requires state courts to enforce valid child custody and visitation rights made in other states. The UCCJEA guidelines help shape various aspects of Texas state law regarding families.
Conservatorship and the roles of parents defined in Texas state family laws.
The laws of the State of Texas consider child custody “conservatorship”. This definition outlines the rights and responsibilities of parents concerning their child’s welfare and best interests. The responsibilities include decision-making for medical care, education and other matters impacting the child’s life. There are two types of conservatorship in Texas:
- Joint Managing Conservatorship: Where both parents make decisions on matters concerning the child’s safety and welfare.
- Sole Managing Conservatorship: Only one parent has the right to make decisions affecting the child.
How parental drug or alcohol abuse affects determinations of child custody cases in Texas:
When one, or both parents are using a substance that negatively impacts their ability to adequately care for children, the State of Texas considers this to be a form of “child abuse” or “neglect”. In custody cases, parents have the right to file a motion to have the other parent tested for drug use. However, this accusation cannot come without supporting evidence regarding the claims. The supporting evidence can come from a variety of sources, third party witnesses, the parent’s own criminal records, social welfare agencies or medical records. Courts will typically grant these requests as it is in the best interests of the child to determine the parent’s ability to provide for them.
If you have been actively using drugs and you tested positive on the court-ordered drug test, it is taken very seriously by the courts in Texas. This will likely be a major factor in the court’s decision regarding child custody and visitation rights. Typically, a failed UA will result in the complete loss of custody and visitation rights. Sometimes you may only be allowed supervised visitation rights.
If a parent has repeated failed drug tests, a court-ordered addiction treatment program may be required to regain your visitation rights. This program may be in conjunction with other forms of counseling and even parenting classes. Keep in mind that a positive drug test doesn’t necessarily mean a complete loss of your parental rights. Exhibiting a willingness to change, with the successful completion of court-ordered classes and treatment programs can go a long way to restoring involvement in your child’s life.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, odds are it is affecting their entire family. Consider the help available from More Than Rehab. We offer an extensive treatment program for all types of drug and alcohol abuse. We are located just outside of Houston, Texas with locations in Austin and Dallas coming soon. Our phone lines are open 24/7 and we are ready to help.