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Can an ex-spouse’s drug use affect his or her child custody?

When couples with children divorce, often the most contentious issues are related to the rearing of their children. Some disagreements erupt over decisions made regarding the children's education. Other arguments from over the types of entertainment the children are exposed to while in the care of the other parent. Texas state law is clear that whatever is in the best interests of the child will be the determining factor that family court judges will consider as to which parent is correct on such child custody issues.

There is growing recognition among child welfare advocates that there are there are potentially negative effects caused by the use of drugs and alcohol by parents and other individuals tasked with looking after children. In fact, roughly 47 U.S. states and territories currently have laws on the books designed to address issues related to the protection of children from parents engaging in substance abuse.

Although largely unheralded, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act requires that states enact certain policies and procedures to notify Child Protective Services whenever a newborn is brought into the world exhibiting signs of exposure to illegal drugs or alcohol.

However, there are also less obvious activities that some parents engage in while exercising child custody that are potentially harmful to their children. For example, parents involved in the use, sale or manufacture of methamphetamine may be unwittingly exposing their children to extremely hazardous chemicals and related dangers.

Texas, along with 32 other states and the U. S. Virgin Islands has specific statutes aimed at addressing such potential harm to children. In fact, Texas considers a child to have been abused when someone has caused or permitted the child to be in a situation in which the child "sustains a mental or emotional injury that results in an observable and material impairment in the child's growth, development or psychological functioning".

If you are a Texas parent and you suspect that your children's other parent is engaging in activity harmful to your children, you should know that you do not have to suffer quietly. The state is always looking to do whatever is best for your child. With the proper legal approach, you may be able to modify your current child custody order to protect your children now, as well as preserve their future well-being.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Parental Drug Use as Child Abuse" Sep. 23, 2014

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