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What should I do if my ex is abusing drugs?

Whether or not they intend for it to, a parent's substance abuse issue almost always takes a toll on the child. This is especially true in cases where the addicted parent has sole custody or there is a shared custody arrangement.

It's difficult for someone abusing alcohol or drugs to provide the care, attention and stability that children need. Substance abuse often causes widespread communication issues in the household, which can lead to angry outbursts or a generally chaotic emotional environment for the child.

Parental substance abuse can also have a dramatic effect on the children's academic progress. In some situations, children may have to take on more of the household responsibilities, leaving less time for school work. In others, the parent may not be available to help with homework or to make sure the child is studying and keeping up with the rest of the class. Emotional stress can also lead children to pay less attention in school or to be depressed or anxious, which can all negatively affect the child's education.

If you have concerns about the other parent's ability to provide adequate care for your children due to a substance abuse issue, a family law attorney can help you understand the likely process going forward. The family courts take parental substance abuse very seriously, and if the substance issue is proven in court, it is likely to affect the court's decision. Whether you are still involved in the original custody decision or you are trying to modify an existing order, talking with an attorney is key.

Source: American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, "Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Children and Families," accessed July 16, 2015

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