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How Can Substance Abuse Affect Parental Rights in Michigan?

 Posted on October 20, 2020 in Divorce

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Regardless of opinions on the matter, the law in Michigan states that substance abuse issues are not enough, in and of themselves, to disqualify a parent from retaining the rights to their children. It generally takes a showing of substance abuse and demonstrable consequences stemming from the problem in order to bring up questions of terminating parental rights. 

Parental Rights During a Divorce

As with any case where parental fitness is at issue, a Michigan court will determine the child’s future based on the consideration of a list of factors intended to pinpoint the best interests of the child. Parental fitness is only one of those factors, though it is an important one. If someone has a substance abuse issue but is seeking help with it, or if someone is mentally ill and in treatment, that is different in many respects from someone who denies the issue altogether. 

Other factors that go toward the best interests of the child are many, not all of which will deal with parental fitness, but rather expediency and adaptability. Some include the wishes of the child (if he or she is at an age to form a substantive opinion) and the mental and physical needs of all involved, both parents and children. Another major issue that may be discussed is any history of physical violence against the child or either spouse. If substance abuse is a factor, the issue will certainly be discussed, but it will not excuse the existing history of violence in any way.

Modifying an Existing Arrangement

If substance abuse has become a problem for you or your ex-spouse only after your divorce, either of you may attempt to modify a parenting time order at any time. While family courts in Michigan are often hesitant to make drastic changes to custody and parenting time schedules, the issue of substance abuse can create special circumstances. If the court is advised that one parent is abusing drugs or alcohol, the court has the authority to modify parenting time, again based on serving the best interests of the child.

If the problem is bad enough, the court may take steps to terminate parental rights, but there are also alternatives. It is not without precedent, for example, for a Michigan court to order that a parent attend rehab or outpatient counseling, or to curtail visitation or demand supervised visitation only. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services may be consulted to set up a program or find a facility that will meet the needs of the parent having problems. Generally, the courts try to keep both parents involved in a child’s life, unless there is abuse or another issue present that would cause harm to the child. 

Ask a Novi, MI Child Custody Attorney for Help

Substance abuse can be symptomatic of addiction or another underlying issue, and in these situations, you need help, and you need assistance in managing your life while you get that help. The experienced Oakland County family lawyers at Elkouri Heath PLC can help you through the process of getting healthy and will work hard to ensure your family is taken care of properly. Call 248-344-9700 to set up a free, confidential consultation with a compassionate member of our team today. 





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