While your spouse’s substance abuse issues may not affect you nearly as much since you have separated, they certainly will continue to affect your children. Unfortunately, many clients are faced with these issues. It is important to address all substance abuse concerns at the beginning of a matter, by bringing it to your attorney or the court’s attention. In many Maryland counties the Court, when requested, will order a substance abuse evaluation of the parties. Be aware that if you request an evaluation of your spouse, the Court will often order that the evaluation be performed on both parties. The evaluation will most likely consist of an interview including substance abuse history, and treatment and also in some cases urinalysis or other form of drug/alcohol screen. If a party asks, and the Court feels is it necessary, continuing drug screens of a party may be ordered. This allows for the party to gain visitation or custody with their child or children after maintaining positive results. If a custody evaluation is performed in a matter the evaluator will also utilize the information gained from drug screens or a substance abuse evaluation to assist them in making their recommendation.
For parties who resolve their matter outside of a Maryland court proceeding, they still can address substance abuse issues by incorporating language in their separation agreement, parenting plan or Consent Order that allows for continued monitoring of the other parent. For instance, they may require the parent to undergo monthly drug screens and forward to them the results in order to maintain the access or custody schedule. If substance abuse is no longer a problem, but has been in the past, they may consider incorporating language that allows for testing or treatment upon suspicion of a recurrence of a substance abuse issue, ie relapse. For instance, an agreement may have language that states that upon suspicion of drug or alcohol use during visitation, the party may withhold all visitations from the using parent until a negative drug screen is provided. Parties may also add language that requires a parent to submit to a breathalyzer before driving the children in a vehicle or exercising visitation at all, if alcohol use has been suspected.
The most important factor to consider in cases involving substance abuse and children surrounds the safety and stability of the minor children. For more information regarding Maryland divorce proceedings contact an experienced Maryland Divorce Attorney.