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Will going into rehab destroy my chance at custody?

Should you delay treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction until after the judge makes a decision on custody? Will having a documented history of drug or alcohol addiction permanently ruin your chances at obtaining custody?

While you ultimately want to discuss the issue with your attorney, since every custody case is unique, take a moment to think about the situation from the judge's perspective.

Family court judges in Texas are empowered to consider just about any factor that they feel is relevant to the case when they make a custody decision. If a parent has a problem with drugs or alcohol, that's almost certainly going to be a consideration.

Unless you have somehow managed to keep your addiction hidden from everyone you know (and you probably haven't), your ex-spouse, parents, in-laws or whoever else is fighting you for custody of your child is going to bring up allegations of drug or alcohol abuse. It's fairly safe to assume that there will be witness testimony and arguments about how your addiction keeps you from being a capable parent.

Ask yourself which person the judge is going to view more favorably in this situation: the parent who hasn't done anything to get his or her addiction under control, or the parent that's already acknowledged his or her problem and committed to recovery without having to hear an order from the court?

You may have to do a little additional work to prove to the court that your drug or alcohol abuse is now a thing of the past:

-- Be willing to take random drug or alcohol screenings anytime the court wants to order one.

-- Show the court that you are continuing therapy with a counselor outside of the rehab clinic or attending Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings to prevent relapses.

-- Provide your own witnesses that will vouch for you and testify that you are now drug-free or sober. Your coworkers, boss and neighbors may be able to testify on your behalf.

-- Be willing to submit to psychological testing if necessary.

Keep in mind that courts do have a strong preference toward keeping both parents involved in their child's life whenever possible. Rehab doesn't have to be the end of your custody case -- it may even strengthen it because you're proving that you're willing to do whatever it takes to be a capable parent.

Source: residential drug rehab HELP, "Can I Regain Child Custody after Rehab?," accessed May 26, 2017

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