Addiction and Child Custody

Father drinking alcohol and scared son

Drug and alcohol addiction can ruin a marriage. It can ruin a family. It can ruin a life. Unfortunately, for those parents who are coping with an ex-spouse who has an addiction to drugs or alcohol, figuring out how to manage child custody can be complicated. You want to do what’s best for your children, but you may feel like your hands are tied due to your current court-ordered child custody agreement.

Whether your ex-spouse has recently developed a drug and alcohol problem or relapsed into an old addiction, the experienced and sensitive child custody attorneys at Charles R. Ullman & Associates in Raleigh can help. For 20 years, attorney Charles R. Ullman has focused his practice on helping parents resolve sensitive child custody issues, and he is board-certified by the North Carolina Bar as a specialist in family law. To schedule a confidential consultation today, call or fill out our online form.

Modifying a Child Custody Agreement

When you start to suspect that your ex-spouse is abusing drugs or alcohol, there are a few steps you can take right away to protect your children while not violating your current custody agreement:

If possible, discuss the problem with your former spouse. Perhaps he or she can admit to the addiction and agree to a set of child custody schedule rules that allow you to check in on the children during the times they are not with you.

If they are old enough, talk to your children about safe behaviors. This may include explaining signs of intoxication and knowing when to avoid getting in the car with someone who has been drinking or using drugs. Make sure your children know they can always call you or another trusted adult if they feel unsafe. But beware: Talking to your children in too much detail about your ex-spouse could put them in a tough spot if they feel they are being asked to spy and report back.

If they are old enough, talk to your children about safe behaviors.

Collect any evidence of the addiction putting the children in danger. This may include an arrest report on drug charges or a DUI, or evidence that your spouse’s dangerous behavior caused an injury to your child.

Talk to an experienced Raleigh child custody attorney. If the drug or alcohol abuse is putting your children in danger of serious and immediate injury, the attorney may request emergency custody for you. As a more permanent solution, the attorney will work on a motion to modify your child custody agreement through the court.

Coping with addiction and child custody issues can be scary, especially when you feel your children’s safety is at risk. But the experienced family law attorneys at Charles R. Ullman & Associates can help you document the change in circumstances and modify your child custody agreement to do what’s in the best interests of the children.

Contact us now to figure out the next steps you need to take.

From Custody to Supervised Visitation

If you currently share custody with an ex-spouse who has problems with drug abuse or alcohol addiction, a judge may agree to modify your child custody schedule to instead incorporate supervised visitation.

To ensure the children are safe during the supervised visits, the American Bar Association offers the following guidelines for judges to consider:

  • Your ex-spouse may be required to be tested for drug or alcohol use before visits.
  • Your ex-spouse may not be allowed to possess or consume alcohol or other controlled substances during visits.
  • Your ex-spouse may be restricted in where he or she can go with the children.
  • Your ex-spouse may face driving or firearms restrictions while he or she is with the children.
  • Your ex-spouse may be ordered to enter a drug or alcohol treatment program to treat the addiction in order to maintain contact with the children.

Permanent Termination of Parental Rights

Permanent Termination of Parental RightsIn the worst-case scenario, parents are coping with an ex-spouse who seems to have chosen a life of addiction over a life with his or her children. Although it’s heartbreaking to see a person you once loved go down this hole, you have to be strong for your children.

In some cases, a parent may consider trying to have their former spouse’s parental rights terminated. Particularly if you have remarried, and your current husband or wife would like to adopt your children, this would be a scenario that an experienced child custody lawyer would need to help you with.

Legal Aid of North Carolina outlines the following reasons that termination of parental rights may be considered:

  • The parent is not able to provide proper care and supervision of the children due to substance abuse, mental illness, or another condition.
  • The parent has abandoned the children for six or more consecutive months.
  • A court has ruled that the parent abused or neglected the children.
  • The parent, without justification, failed to pay child support to the other parent who has custody.

Terminating parental rights is an extreme measure for those who are forced to cope with extreme circumstances. The decision is something you will need to prepare your children for to ensure they know that they will always be safe and loved.

How to Talk to Your Children About Addiction

When you are coping with the harsh realities of addiction and child custody issues, it is natural to want to shield your children from what is happening. However, being open and honest — in an age-appropriate way — is important, and it will help your children learn to cope, too.

It is imperative that you educate yourself about addiction and the disease first before talking to your children, so you can answer any questions they have and provide reassurance. The National Association for Children of Alcoholics suggests talking to children about the “seven C’s”:

I didn’t cause it.

I can’t cure it.

I can’t control it.

I can help take care of myself by

communicating my feelings,

making healthy choices,

and celebrating me.

Talk with an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer Today

Talk with an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer TodayNo child custody arrangement is permanent. If you are worried that your ex-spouse’s drug abuse or alcohol addiction is putting your children in jeopardy and need help changing your child custody schedule, contact us today. The experienced Wade County child custody lawyers at Charles R. Ullman & Associates are dedicated to helping you fight for what’s in the best interests of your children.

Schedule a consultation with us now by calling or filling out our online contact form.


Charles Ullman & Associates provides you respected, experienced and knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys. You can trust us to help you through the legal process efficiently and effectively so you can transition to the next phase of your life. Our community involvement reaches beyond charitable support of important causes. We launched our own movement in Fraternities4Family and provide scholarships to able students in need.