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When Substance Abuse Causes Restrictions on Parenting Time

Daniel Noffsinger - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Drug use affects families with children unlike any other group. If a parent is abusing alcohol or drugs it raises concern over whether that parent can adequately look after and care for a child. The issue is relevant in divorce cases, dependency and neglect matters, and cases involving the allocation of parental responsibilities. Drugs and alcohol have the ability to alter the mental state of the user. Parents are inconsistent with their ability to parent and are often more susceptible to abusing or neglecting their children.

Restricting Parenting Time Because of Drug Use

Under Colorado law, parenting time may be restricted if the parent’s drug use endangers the child’s physical health or significantly harms the child’s emotional development. If endangerment is proven, parenting time may be supervised or suspended until the parent completes a drug treatment program or submits a negative drug test.

Drug testing may be ordered if:

  • A controversy exists as to the mental or physical condition of the person to be tested
  • Good cause for testing is shown
  • The person to be examined as well as other interested parties are provided proper notice

Being raised in a drug-filled environment can have a negative impact on children. They may experience neglect, physical or emotional abuse, lack of supervision, lack of parenting or nurturing role models, poor nutrition, deprivation, and unsanitary living conditions.

Immediately upon a finding of drug abusing parent, courts will often suspend visitation. The substance abusing parent may be able to obtain supervised visitation if he or she seeks immediate treatment and demonstrates progress on that front. Removal of supervised visitation is dependent on the successful completion of the appropriate drug treatment program.

Marijuana Laws

In November of 2000 marijuana in Colorado became legal for people with certain medical conditions. As of 2012, all people over the age of 21 can possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants at home.

While marijuana consumption is legal in Colorado, parental pot-smoking can be considered as a factor in child-neglect cases, just like alcohol. As a result, some parents have been accused of endangering their children and have had them taken away by child protective service agencies. Some examples are:

  • In the Interest of A.J.A. (2006) marijuana use by a parent mother, not registered as medical marijuana patient, was found to be an unfit parent.
  • In Re the Marriage of Parr (2010) father’s use of marijuana found to endanger his child’s physical health or risked impairing her emotional development.

Just as with alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking, parents need to discuss marijuana consumption and keep minor children away from these substances until they reach the age of legal and permissible use.

Contact a Colorado Springs Divorce Attorney

If you have questions regarding parenting time restrictions because of drug or alcohol abuse or parental rights during divorce proceedings, a Colorado Springs divorce attorney can answer your questions. A Colorado Springs family law attorney at Noffsinger Law can help you understand your legal rights during a divorce proceeding and protect your parental rights. Noffsinger Law provides legal services in a variety of family law matters, including paternity disputes, parental rights, adoptions and divorces.

Contact a Colorado Springs divorce attorney today for a free initial consultation. Call us at 719.368.3688 or visit our office at 545 East Pikes Peak Avenue, Suite 205 in Colorado Springs.