Addiction, Substance Abuse, and Drug Use in Arizona Family Court

Addiction and/or substance abuse/drug use can have a major impact on child custody in Arizona. It can significantly impact a parent’s legal decision-making authority and/or parenting time. First and foremost, the legislature and the court is doing everything it can to protect the children from potentially dangerous situations. But, the court also will give parents an opportunity to address their issue or correct their behavior. Our office is experienced in both helping parents protect their children when the other parent is abusing controlled or illicit substances as well as help parents who suffer from addiction—or have made some mistakes—work back towards a healthy relationship with their children.

Addiction, Substance Abuse and Drug Use

While Arizona Family Law does not actually differentiate between an addiction and substance abuse in the law, the case direction can vary depending on which issue you are addressing. Addictions more refer to people in treatment or who are willing to therapeutically address their substance abuse issues. This does not change the court’s need to protect the children from potentially dangerous situations, but it does more organically lend itself to setting up safeguards for the children that transition the parent towards a more traditional and healthy relationship with the children. On the other hand, when one party makes allegations of substance abuse, the other party is usually not seeking treatment for the issue. Both addiction and substance abuse issues can present in any family law case like a divorce, establishment, or modification.

How Addiction and Substance Abuse Impacts Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time

Addiction and substance abuse can impact both legal decision-making and parenting time. Firstly, A.R.S. 25-403 states “[t]he court shall determine legal decision-making and parenting time, either originally or on petition for modification, in accordance with the best interests of the child. The court shall consider all factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being…”

Next, in accordance with A.R.S. 25-403.04, if the court determines that a parent has abused drugs or alcohol or has been convicted of any drug offense, under the statutes identified, within twelve months before the petition or request was filed, a rebuttable presumption against the user is established. The term “rebuttable presumption” in this context means if a court finds a parent has a substance abuse issue, then it is presumed it would not be in the best interest of the child for that parent to have joint or sole legal decision-making.  The parent with the substance abuse issue, however, is afforded an opportunity to “rebut” or challenge this “presumption” with evidence showing that joint legal decision-making authority, for example, is still in the best interest of the child if the court finds the factors listed in A.R.S. 25-403.04(B).

No matter what situation you are facing: protecting your children from unsafe situations or working to overcome past mistakes, our experienced attorneys can help you put a plan in place. Contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

How do Arizona Family Law Courts Determine if There is an Addiction or Substance Abuse Issue

In order for the Court to be aware of an addiction or substance abuse issue it needs to be brought to the court’s attention in some way. Usually, this occurs by one party making the allegation. Of course, allegations are made all the time. In family law, courts are not unfamiliar with parties making allegations that may be exaggerated or falsely made to mislead the court. Therefore, allegations alone are not usually enough to impact a parent’s legal decision-making and/or parenting time. Presenting credible evidence strengthens allegations. Initially, the court usually turns to drug testing and continued monitoring. But, in some cases, the court may find additional evidence helpful.

To put your best case forward, allegations must be supported by evidence. You and the court have tools to gather evidence. Usually, the first is to request drug testing. Depending on the allegations, a one-time drug test may not be appropriate to gather the appropriate information to protect the children. There may also be other situations where additional evidence is necessary and hiring other professionals—such as a Private Investigator—is helpful.

Currently, the court first orders testing through Averhealth but they can sometimes order through other agencies depending on the specific facts of the case. The standard tests that are ordered are Urinalysis and Hair Follicle. But depending on the allegations, additional testing may be necessary. Be sure to discuss your options with an experienced family law attorney.

How We Approach an Addiction or Substance Abuse Family Law Case

Our approach to an addiction or substance abuse family law case differs depending on the facts presented. Some situations require requesting emergency protections from the court in order to ensure the safety of the children’s wellbeing. Other cases do not require emergency actions, but you must still ensure you are working to protect your children. That means making the appropriate testing requests from the court and requesting the appropriate supervision and monitoring of the other party. On the other hand, some cases require putting a plan together that cures the courts concerns to be able to move towards a healthy relationship with the children. To discuss a plan for your specific case, contact our office and schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

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8980 E Raintree Dr #110, Scottsdale, AZ 85260 Phone: (480) 307-6800

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