Can an Open Drug Case Affect Child Custody in GA?

By Elizabeth Rayne

A parent's illegal drug use can factor into custody and visitation determinations in Georgia. The degree to which a criminal court case can negatively affect a parent's access to his or her child often depends on whether the drug case is currently open, or ongoing, and whether sufficient time has elapsed since any previous drug charges. The extent to which a parent has been cooperative in rehabilitation programs will also be an important consideration when deciding custody arrangements.

Best Interest of the Child Factors

In Georgia, the courts are primarily concerned with the best interests of the child when determining custody. Generally, the court favors continued contact with both parents and a shared custody arrangement. But the court considers all factors and circumstances -- including criminal records -- that demonstrate it is not in the child's best interest to have contact with a particular parent. The court is also concerned with the ability of each parent to properly care for the child; the mental and physical health of each party; the parent's involvement in the child's life; and extracurricular activities. In most cases, a single factor, even drug charges, will not completely bar a parent's right to some form of custody.

Impact of Drug Use

In considering the best interest of the child, the court may be concerned with the severity or reoccurrence of illegal drug use by a parent. If the drug use occurred before the marriage or before the child was born, it may not be relevant to a custody issue. The more recent and habitual the use, the more it demonstrates that the parent is not fit to care for the child. In cases of recurrent drug abuse and arrests, the court has discretion to award sole custody to the other parent.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Responding to Drug Abuse Allegations

If the matter of drug use and criminal charges are an issue, the parent may take steps to prove to the court he is a responsible caretaker for the child. For example, the parent may testify that he is remorseful for his actions and that he is currently in a recovery program to prevent relapse. Similarly, the parent could show that he has a positive support system among friends and family, and focus on the reasons why his continuing involvement in the child's life is in the best interest of the child.

Discretion of the Court

If concerned about the drug charges, the court has broad discretion to order a variety of appropriate measures. It may consider factors surrounding the parent's current drug use as well as postpone the custody hearing until the parent's criminal case is resolved. At the custody hearing, the judge may order the parent to refrain from drugs and alcohol for the 24-hour period prior to visitation with the child. The court may also order future drug testing and retain authority to modify custody in the future depending on the outcome of those tests.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Continuous Addiction & Child Custody


Related articles

How to Get Sole Custody When Your Ex Is an Alcoholic

Keeping a child out of harm's way is a parent's No. 1 priority. In cases of shared custody, the addictive behavior of one parent, including alcoholism, could be deemed detrimental enough to the child to award sole custody to the other parent. Further, while all states determine divorce and custody issues according to their own set of laws, the best interests of the child are paramount in custody and visitation decisions.

How Does Spouse Abuse Affect Child Custody?

Courts and parents alike want to keep children safe from harm. In determining the custody arrangement following a divorce, courts are primarily concerned with what is in the best interest of the child. As a result, a history of abuse by a parent, particularly if the history is documented, may be highly influential in the outcome of a custody case.

How to Prove a Parent Unfit in Child Custody Cases

Judges view parental fitness as an integral part of a child custody decision. Determining what is in the best interests of the child includes looking at the status of the parents. If one parent is more stable than the other, judges can decide to award primary custody to that parent. As a result, parental fitness is often a mechanism used in custody battles. Each state has its own set of rules regarding what makes a parent unfit. However, there are some generally accepted grounds that a parent can use to prove the other is unfit. These include abuse, neglect, mental illness, substance abuse and incarceration.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Divorce With Children & a Drug Addicted Spouse in Maryland

There are two types of child custody in Maryland: physical custody and legal custody. A parent with physical custody is ...

Child Custody & Drug Testing

Custody battles can get heated and, as a parent, you may feel tempted to do anything that would win you more time with ...

Child Custody & Loss of Parental Rights From Drug Abuse

When a parent struggles with drug addiction, his parental rights may be affected. In some cases, child protection ...

Father's Child Custody Rights When the Child's Mother Is Mentally Ill

Mental illness can affect not only a person's life, but those around them as well. For that reason, courts take mental ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED