North Carolina parents who have gone through a divorce and who are worried if their ex's substance abuse issue can compromise the safety of their child may have recourse in family court. However, they should be aware of exactly at what point the courts should become involved and what actions parents can take to ensure that their children are protected and still be in compliance with a child custody order.
Judges can address a parent's substance abuse during a child custody hearing. They may also respond to the issues if reports about the substance abuse have been submitted to the local child protective services agency.
If parents are suspected of being unable to properly care for their children because of substance abuse, or if their substance abuse is a risk to the children's welfare, the court may take action by requiring an investigation of the allegations. The best interests of the child will always be paramount. The standard considers the general fitness of both parents as well as any documented proof of prior substance abuse.
If there is an existing child custody order in place and the complaints are justified, a parent may have his or her contact with the children restricted. The judge may adjust the visitation arrangement so that the children's time with their non-custodial parent is supervised. The supervision may be provided by a family member or social worker. A family law attorney may advise parents of the proper legal avenues to pursue to obtain a child custody order modification in these types of circumstances.