Judge on the benchThis is the second post in the series on how drug use impacts Virginia child custody cases. Our first post provided an overview of the topics we will be addressing over the course of this series. We also stressed the importance of retaining counsel when you believe that the other parent is engaging in illicit drug use. An experienced child custody lawyer can help you decide on what steps to take in this process. In this article we will discuss how different types of drug use are viewed by the court. If you require assistance, contact our office today to speak with an attorney.

Not every drug case is viewed through the same lens. A case involving a parent that engages in recreational marijuana use will be treated much differently than if that same parent were to abuse heroin. These distinctions are important because the more serious the drug is, the more severe the restrictions will be in regards to one’s child custody arrangement. Let’s consider two examples. First, suppose you are a mother of two small children. You presently share custody with the father of your children. However, you have knowledge that the father regularly uses methamphetamine or crystal meth. Given the nature of these drugs the court would likely begin by ordering that the parent submit to drug testing. If the results of that test are positive for drug use, then it is likely that the court will modify the custody order in favor of the other parent. Now consider a situation in which a parent engages in occasional drug use. If that parent submitted to court ordered drug testing and the results were negative, then a judge would be more hesitant to drastically alter the existing custody order.

The court is going to consider a variety of factors in determining the extent to which it will modify your custody arrangement. If a parent has never engaged in prior drug use and devotes him or herself to rehabilitation then it is likely that he or she will still retain some form of visitation. In fact, he or she may even be able to later establish an argument in favor of shared custody. However, we can take that same scenario and add a few facts that may drastically change the court’s determination. Suppose the aforementioned parent has an extensive history of drug abuse. Furthermore, what if he or she has engaged in this activity in the children’s presence? These facts may cause the court to consider awarding primary custody to the sober parent and placing severe restrictions on the offending parent’s visitation.

As stated in the previous article, Virginia employs a best interests standard in child custody cases. This means that the goal of custody is to ensure that a particular determination is serving the child’s best interests. Evidence of drug use can certainly have an impact on how the court decides to award custody. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that some forms of drug abuse are treated more severely than others. This is why it is crucial that you contact a family law lawyer to assist in making these decisions. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation and discuss your options.