In family law, a parenting order is issued to determine custody arrangements (along with financial maintenance) when children are involved. Although they might be permanent (at least until your children reach legal adulthood), these arrangements can also be subject to change. If your ex has a history of drug or alcohol abuse, should this impact your parenting order? If the problem is ongoing, or if your ex suffers a relapse, then the wellbeing of your children can be in jeopardy. But what can you do about it?
Under the Influence
Although preventing your ex from taking the children for their predetermined visitation time can mean that you're breaching your parenting order, you certainly have legitimate grounds for doing so. If your ex is clearly under the influence of alcohol or drugs, placing the children in their care can be placing your children at risk. If your ex chooses to file a notice of the breach, you might be asked to justify your actions. This will require a formal response to the notice explicitly stating your concerns and that you will willingly adhere to the parenting order once your ex demonstrates that they're able to control their issues with addiction.
Demonstrating Treatment for Addiction
The court might opt to restore your former partner's visitation rights when they have satisfactorily demonstrated that they are receiving treatment for their addiction, and that their addiction will not pose a threat to your children. This can include testing negative for drugs and/or alcohol (which will be both random and scheduled, as ordered by the court), receiving addiction counselling, completing a rehabilitation programme, attending a recovery group (such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous), receiving medication to treat alcohol or opioid addiction or some combination of these measures. Regular, ongoing testing and assessment might be ordered to ensure that your former partner remains fit to receive their visitation rights as per the parenting agreement.
Amending the Parenting Order
Addiction is not always such a clear matter, and it can be difficult to quantify whether these issues are in fact being controlled. You have the option of requesting a new parenting order that grants you sole custody, with the matter to be reassessed if your ex can demonstrate a long-term control over their problem. Although it's a difficult decision, this can be a necessary option if you feel that any visitation has the potential to put your children at risk. Supervised visitation is also a possibility.
It's a tragedy when addiction makes someone unfit to see their children, but as the other party, you will want to act in the best interests of your children. For more information about this and other family law issues, speak to a family lawyer.