Substance Abuse & Your Kids: Child Custody Options in TennesseeIf you are the non-custodial parent in a Tennessee divorce case, you do have rights when it comes to the welfare of your kids. At the outset of your divorce, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-6-106 governs which parents will play what role. A parenting plan written and agreed to in good faith should be established in front of the court with the help of your Columbia family lawyer. Life, however, can get in the way, and sometimes parenting plans need substantial modification. Such is the case when one parent in a divorce with children has a substance abuse problem – especially one that is severe enough to adversely affect the daily lives of your kids.

During your original divorce proceedings, it is highly advisable to consult with your attorney about options should your former spouse develop a substance abuse problem. Indeed, this should be of primary concern in families that have experienced harrowing addiction issues before. If you have reason to believe your former spouse has a drug or alcohol problem, your best option is to confront this early in the divorce proceedings and demand a workable plan for everyone involved.

Custodial parent vs. primary residential parent

In Tennessee, the custodial parent and the primary residential parent might be different people. The parent that the child lives with most of the time does not always have final decision-making authority over the child. When you establish your parenting plan in the early stages of divorce proceedings, it is best to establish who makes decisions during various states of residential time or parenting time. Should these provisions need to be amended due to the onset, continuation, or exacerbation of problematic substance use or addiction concerns with one (or even both) parent(s), consulting your Columbia family and divorce lawyer is of primary importance.

If the parent with the substance abuse problem is the non-custodial parent, the court may order supervised visits in controlled settings. The focus here is on the maintenance of the parental relationship with the child, but also on the child’s safety. If child protection agencies or authorities have been involved, the court may order their continued supervision – sometimes with both parents.

Action items for concerned parents

If you are concerned about your former spouse’s relationship with drugs and/or alcohol and how it could be affecting family dynamics or the welfare of your children, consider the following first steps:

  • Express concern to your child’s community. Speak with the troubled parent, enlist familial or community support, seek counseling, or interface with clergy. If there have been demonstrable issues (for example, a DUI), make sure your children’s care providers and schools are aware that there are ongoing issues.
  • Gather evidence. This could be in the form of obtaining police reports, arrest records, or medical records, but it’s imperative that you have proof if you are looking to amend court documents. Additionally, this evidence could help your former spouse qualify for treatment options, which could be beneficial to your children and family.
  • Consult with your family law attorney. Your attorney may suggest that you file a restraining order, refuse visitation, or appeal to amend your divorce decree. Do not take action without adequate representation, and without consulting with legal counsel.

For parental visitation and custodial concerns, the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates are experienced and imminently focused on finding workable solutions for families. Should you be concerned about your former spouse’s substance use, schedule a consultation with our dedicated team of Franklin family law attorneys. Please call 615-977-9370 or contact us online so that we might be best able to assist you with navigating this difficult time for you and your children. We have offices conveniently located in Franklin, Brentwood and Columbia.