Generally speaking, the Indiana courts favor situations in which both parents have custody and access to the children. In other words, the courts assume that it is in the child’s best interests to have both parents play a role in the children’s lives. In order to deviate from this presumption, the courts must find evidence of abuse, neglect, or other factors that potentially place the children in danger. This includes evidence of substance abuse. Drug and alcohol addiction can substantially impact an entire family. When one parent has a substance abuse problem, issues of abuse or neglect are often raised. In this article, the Indiana divorce attorney Chris Arrington will discuss the role of substance abuse in child custody orders.
The best interests of the child standard
In Indiana, there is no presumption in favor of either parent when it comes to child custody issues. Instead, the courts use the “best interests of the child” standard to determine matters related to child custody. In these cases, the courts use a number of factors to determine the best interests of the child. However, the presumption is that having both parents in the child’s life is in the child’s best interests.
To determine what the best interests of the child are, the court will consider factors included in I.C. 31-17-2-8 as well as any other factor that is relevant to the child’s well-being. These factors include allegations of abuse, neglect, and substance abuse. Minor drug and alcohol abuse may not impact a court’s decision to prevent a parent from spending time with their child or requiring supervised visitation. However, severe addiction, domestic violence, sexual abuse, or severe neglect can impact a court’s decision when it comes to the best interests of the children. A court would have a vested interest in protecting a child from an abusive or neglectful parent. Neglect and abuse can result in the maladjustment of the child. The parent may drive while intoxicated with the children in the vehicle or otherwise expose them to harm. Evidence of a DUI, disorderly conduct, or other criminal behavior related to substance abuse can be used by a parent to effectively argue that the other parent is unfit to be around the children without supervision.
The Indiana courts will grant a non-custodial parent reasonable parenting time unless the court finds that the parenting may endanger the welfare of the child and their physical health or significantly impair their emotional development. If the court finds that a parent’s drug or alcohol use is impacting the well-being of their child, they may order the parent to undergo drug or alcohol treatment or only give the parent supervised visitation rights.
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