What is Parental Substance Misuse?

Jul 06, 2018   ·   3 minute read
Little girl with toy standing in front of her drunk father.

Parental substance misuse is an extremely serious issue and it is not uncommon for one parent to allege that the other parent has a drug or alcohol issue when a couple splits up. Why? Well sometimes the parental substance misuse, be it drugs or alcohol, is mentioned in passing as ‘no big deal’ with an acknowledgement that the parent is great with the kids. In other families, there is a genuine concern for the children as the parental substance misuse has gone beyond recreational use and was the reason behind the relationship breakdown. Finally, sometimes allegations are made that are untrue as a means to stop contact or the alcohol or drug use is blown out of all proportion to the reality as a justification to stop the children seeing the other parent.

The issue of drug and alcohol testing in divorce and children cases has hit the headlines with reports in the Daily Mail that James Stunt allegedly provided false samples for drug testing during his divorce from Petra Ecclestone in an attempt to disprove accusations of parental substance misuse.

If one parent uses drugs or alcohol it can have an impact on their ability to look after their children or impact on how much time they should spend with the children. Many parents, despite the trauma of a split, are able to sort out child care and contact arrangements with the help of a solicitor, mediator or therapist, working around the parental substance misuse.

As an example of parental substance misuse, if a mum of teenage boys knows her boys want to see their dad, she can minimise the risks posed by her ex and his alcohol issues by insisting that the children aren’t driven in a car by their father and that a relative stays in Dad’s house when the boys stay over. In a different scenario with a toddler, the risks and issues may be very different.

Where drug or alcohol abuse is denied or parents can’t reach agreement on the impact, if any, the drug / alcohol use should have on the child care arrangements the parents may have to ask the Court to decide how much time the children should spend with each parent and under what conditions.

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Many parents are wary about raising parental substance abuse allegations in Court proceedings or alternatively parents are worried that allegations of alcohol or drug usage will automatically be believed and will result in them losing all contact with their child. That is why it is important to get early professional advice on your options. As an example the Court may question why a parent allowed lots of unsupervised contact if there are very serious allegations of parental substance abuse or why, in a different scenario, a parent hasn’t seen their child for months, making the parent child relationship harder to repair. Sometimes it pays to take things slow and at other times it is vital that a parent pushes for contact notwithstanding the allegations of parental substance misuse.

For legal help with children law and child care arrangements where there are allegations of drug or alcohol misuse please contact us.