Regardless of opinions on the matter, the law in Illinois provides that substance abuse issues are not enough, in and of themselves, to disqualify a parent from retaining the rights regarding their children. It generally takes a showing of substance abuse and demonstrable consequences stemming from the problem in order to bring up the question of terminating parental rights.
During a Divorce
As with any case where parental fitness is at issue, an Illinois court will assess the child’s future with a list of factors intended to pinpoint the best interests of the child. Parental fitness is only one of those factors, though it is an important one. If someone has a substance abuse issue but they are seeking help with it, or if someone is mentally ill and in treatment, that is different, in many respects, from someone who denies the issue altogether.
There are many other factors that address the best interests of the child, not all of which will deal with parental fitness, but rather expediency and adaptability. Some include the wishes of the child if he or she is at an age where they can form a substantive opinion, the child’s relationship with each parent, and the mental and physical needs of all involved. Another major issue that must be discussed is any history of physical violence against the child or either spouse. If substance abuse is a factor, it will be discussed, but it will not mitigate the history altogether.
Modifying an Existing Arrangement
If substance abuse has become a problem for you or your ex-spouse only after your divorce, either may attempt to modify a parenting time order at any time. In many cases, two years must pass before a support or custody order may be changed, but if the court is advised that one parent is abusing drugs or alcohol, the court may have authority to modify parenting time, again based on the best interests of the child.
When a problem is bad enough, the court may take steps to terminate parental rights, but there are also alternatives. It is not uncommon, for example, for an Illinois court to order a parent to attend rehab or outpatient counseling, or to curtail visitation or demand supervised visitation only. The Illinois Department of Human Services may be consulted to set up a program or find a facility that will meet the needs of the parent having problems. Generally, Illinois courts try to keep both of a child’s parents involved in their life, unless there is abuse or another issue present that would cause harm to the child.
Ask an Attorney for Help
Substance abuse can be symptomatic of addiction or another underlying issue, and in these situations, you need help, and you need assistance in managing your life while you get that help. The passionate St. Charles family law attorneys at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. can help you through the process of getting clean, and work hard to ensure your family is taken care of in the way it needs to be. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.