Starting Fresh: Fighting for Child Custody after Rehab

NOTE: The contents in “Starting Fresh: Fighting for Child Custody after Rehab” is meant to serve as a starting research guide for readers and should not be considered as official legal advice. Please consult your attorney before taking any action.

Starting Fresh is a four-part series about the overwhelming struggles recovering individuals face after addiction treatment. Feel free to read Part 1, “Starting Fresh: Life After Treatment as an Ex-Offender” or continue reading below.

“It’s hard for me to wrap my head around being sober and giving my child up.” – LaDonna Hopkins, Rewire

Getting your children taken away due to substance abuse offenses can be one of the worst consequences to experience, and as such, has influenced many parents into committing to addiction treatment in hopes of earning their parental rights back. Yet, getting child custody after rehab can be a complex, arduous process that could last for years without end in sight.

The skepticism towards addicted parents is understandable—drugs, alcohol, and kids don’t tend to mix well—but even after a person fulfills treatment and disciplines themselves into a healthy, sober lifestyle, the stigma can still be present in family courts. Getting child custody after rehab is more than just apologizing for former sins, but convincing state courts that against all odds, change is possible.

“Most people who have substance abuse issues aren’t violent or abusive, but once you become addicted to a substance your life becomes about getting or using (drugs) and your budget, your money, goes towards those things, too,” said Chris Swenson-Smith, division director of children and family services at Pima County Juvenile Court, to Tucson. “When you have something taking over your time and your money, kids often then take the back seat.”

The scenarios may be different for many recovering parents: their kids may have been taken by Child Protective Services (CPS) before treatment, during treatment, and even after treatment—all due to a parent’s history of substance abuse. Much like the complexities of family law, child custody cases that involve drug and/or alcohol abuse do not have straight-cutter, easy solutions and often are subjected to constant supervision, testing, and hearings to effect appropriate judgments.

Drug Treatment Center Finder wants to guide readers toward the treatment center that’s best for them, but what happens afterward? In today’s segment of the Starting Fresh series, Drug Treatment Center Finder would like to point recovering parents toward a good set of resources to help them begin or strengthen their efforts to win child custody after rehab. It will be a hard journey, but much like recovery, it doesn’t have to be impossible.

Supreme Court, Congress Pass Significant Family Laws

Before anything, it’s time to have a brief history lesson.

There have been three significant Supreme Court rulings and an Act of Congress that have changed the course of family law that any parent should know before entering a child custody battle. Whether you’re the mother or the father, knowing these key laws on who has rights in the first place is important to know—because the last thing anyone wants to hear is that their case is over before it even started.

Courts Consider “Best Interest” of the Child, Not You

Some parents make the mistake of believing that now that they’re out of rehab, they’re ready to get their kids back and have a happy ending. Well, family courts generally tend to disagree.

Fighting for child custody after rehab means having to constantly be under supervision to determine if you’re behaving like a good parent, which can make a mother or father feel self-conscious, unworthy, like a criminal, and worse yet: like a terrible parent. Standing up for yourself in family courts can often feel degrading, especially when you’re told that even after going to rehab, it just isn’t enough.

Court judges are not meant to consider your best intentions, but the facts of what is best for your child. Years of substance abuse does not get cancelled out by a 30-day treatment program, unfortunately. So before you think gaining child custody after rehab will be easy to prove you’ve changed as a person, understand what judges are determining in your custody case.

Best Interest of the Child

The Child Welfare Information Gateway published “Determining the Best Interests of the Child” in 2012 that details the factors involved in the court decision on what type of services, actions, and orders will be taken in a child custody case.

Some of the general factors include, but are not limited to:

– The child’s wishes

– The child’s relationship with each parent

– The age and needs of the child

– The capacity of the parents to provide a safe environment for the child

– The physical and mental health of the parents

– The amount of time each parent has spent with the child

– Any previous history of abuse, such as domestic violence or substance abuse, or a criminal record

Most states follow these principles, but it is best advised to look up the “best interest” regulations within your state.

Parental Gatekeeping

Understand this: a parent is not legally authorized to determine the best interest of the child.

This may sound nuts to a parent, especially to parents who only want their child to be safe and protected, but there is a legal difference between what you think is the best interest of the child and what the court thinks it is.

This is particularly important to understand when one parent is restricting the relationship between their child and the other parent, an action referred to as “parental gatekeeping.” Restrictive gatekeeping is normally done for one of two reasons: to keep the child safe (such as in cases of physical/sexual abuse, substance abuse, and child neglect) or with the intent to harm the other parent-child relationship.

If you believe your child is in danger because of the other parent, always call 911. Do not hold your child hostage, even if you feel threatened or feel it’s the right thing to do. Get police and court orders on your side, instead.

However, if you are the victim of parental gatekeeping, understand that this can be added to your legal case. As was detailed in the Huffington Post, gatekeeping is not favorable and should be interpreted as such:

“If the Court finds substantial evidence that a parent within the last 24 months has engaged in restrictive gatekeeping by unreasonably restricting contact with a minor child contrary to the child’s best interest with the intent to interfere with the other parent’s lawful contact with the child and that conduct has resulted in harm to the other parent’s relationship with the minor child, there is a rebuttable presumption that an award of sole or joint physical or legal custody of a child to the gatekeeping parent is detrimental to the child’s best interest.”

–“Are Child Custody Laws That Treat Parental Gatekeeping Like Child Abuse Long Overdue?” Huffington Post.

The fact of the matter is, if you want to earn custody of your child, going against the other parent is not the way to do it. To gain child custody after rehab is an uphill battle, one that involves proving your will and determination.

Recovering Addicts Need to Earn Child Custody after Rehab

Being a biological parent is not enough of a reason for a judge to grant you custody of your child(ren). Child protective inspections look for several indications that a child will be able to live in a safe environment and properly cared for, which means if inspectors see any indication of the opposite, deal’s over.

Real change is rooted in evidence. Passing an inspection is more than just keeping up appearances, but providing proof that you’re serious about transitioning into a better, safer lifestyle for your child to be a part of. Below are a few tips on how to indicate to court judges that you’re working hard to regain child custody after rehab.

Do Your Research for Your Child Custody Case

Child custody battles are emotionally and mentally draining, filled with stress and resentment. Mix in substance abuse and things get even more complicated. Due to the nature of family law, there is no surefire method to getting all (or any) of your legal wishes granted, but doing appropriate research is always a good start.

Before beginning treatment, recovery may have seemed impossible and unattainable. Yet, through hard work, routine upkeep, and personal goal-setting, the impossible became reality for recovering addicts. The same can be expected in child custody cases. Whether you lost child custody after rehab (or during) or are fighting for changes on your visitation/custody rights, the obstacles are daunting. The battles are going to be tough and might take years, but if you take the time to research and follow appropriate legal measures, eventually it will pay off. Like recovery, it won’t be an easy journey, but your kids are worth the effort.

If you don’t know where to begin, then take a look at some of these resources:

Drug Treatment Center Finder – Before any legal progress can be made, you have to be able to prove that you’re working towards change—and that means seeking addiction treatment, if you haven’t already. Drug Treatment Center Finder provides a database of drug and/or alcohol treatment (IN) centers located all across the United States. Start your recovery by finding the right treatment center for you. Getting treatment will give you a strong legal standpoint that you’re serious about your case.

Research the child custody laws in your state – On a federal level, parents and/or legal guardians may seek information on child protection services through the Child Welfare Information Gateway and the National Resource Center for Child Protective Services. However, child custody laws vary by state, so it is advised that you research family law in your area or, in some cases, the area in which your child(ren) was/were born.

FreeAdvice: Law – Going to court can be intimidating, but so can speaking to your own lawyer, especially if you’re not entirely sure how to legally explain your case. FreeAdvice: Law offers an anonymous opportunity for prospective clients to ask lawyers and other legal aides for casual advice on their case, which can be a good starting guide on the type of attorney needed, the actions to be taken, and the legal language to be defined. Note that FreeAdvice: Law is merely a starting point for clients, who must still seek out an attorney to represent them.

LegalMatch – LegalMatch offers a national database of family law attorneys, among other legal aid and resources. Clients may search for an attorney in their area via zip code, and then present their case by filling out a quick questionnaire about their situation and providing a small detailed description—all free and confidential. Clients may also read through their legal library, blog, forums, and more.

Keep Up with the Starting Fresh Series!

This marks the second segment of our four-part series, Starting Fresh, where important aspects about life after treatment will be discussed. From child custody battles to making amends with loved ones, Starting Fresh is a series brought to you by Drug Treatment Center Finder as part of National Recovery Month and to help readers find their path in recovery. Updates to the series will be posted here!

PART 1 – “Starting Fresh: Life After Treatment as an Ex-Offender”

PART 2 – “Starting Fresh: Fighting for Child Custody after Rehab”

Stay tuned for Part 3, “Starting Fresh: Evaluating a Toxic Friendship,” a guide on how to recognize abusive attributes in friendships after completing treatment. From enabling to emotional manipulation, readers will be able to understand the difference between a toxic relationship and honest support from loved ones.

At Drug Treatment Center Finder, we believe everyone deserves a second chance at building their life for a better future. That’s why we aim to provide resources for finding the right drug treatment center in all 50 states of the US. Drug Treatment Center Finder is available 24-7 for those in need of a new beginning in their lives. To get more information, call one of our agents at 855-619-8070 today and receive a consultation on addiction recovery methods.

Staff writer :