Megan E. Spidell
How the Opiate Epidemic Can Affect Your Child Custody Case
In North Carolina, the number of people who died from opioid overdose increased by more than 400% between 2006 and 2016. More than 1,300 families in North Carolina are permanently changed by addiction each year, and more people die from opioid overdoses than car crashes. In addition, drug misuse, abuse, or addiction profoundly impact custody cases, foster care, and more. So, as the opiate epidemic continues to grip our state, this post will outline what you need to know and how your case and child(ren) might be affected.
What You Need to Know about the Opioid Epidemic and Foster Care in NC
In 2019, 38.9% of children removed from their homes and put in out-of-home placement had a parent with a substance abuse disorder. Those are the national statistics. In North Carolina, the number was closer to 50%. The bottom line? Children of parents with substance abuse disorders are more likely to be placed in out-of-home care and stay in care longer than other children.
Opiate use and treatment can also result in more extended stays in foster care for children. For example, in North Carolina, the median length of time a child entering state custody and remained in foster care increased from under one year (362 days) in 2000 to more than 15 months in 2016.
Unfortunately, the opioid epidemic is so widespread in North Carolina that some children's closest relatives cannot provide a stable home environment. These circumstances put children of parents with substance misuse at risk of being placed in state custody. Since research suggests children removed from parental care have more positive outcomes when placed with other relatives, this presents a new set of challenges.
Do you need an NC attorney experienced in navigating the opiate epidemic and custody cases?
Schedule an appointment to meet with Spidell Family Law today!
Are Mothers and Fathers Treated Differently with Regard to Drug Use?
A parent's drug use can affect custody cases in several ways. Can a mother lose custody for drug use? Can a father lose custody for drug use? In short, yes. If any parent or guardian uses drugs, the child could be in danger.
When the state has evidence a child is in danger, it will become involved and take steps to offer protection. To determine whether or not a mother or father should lose custody because of drug use, the court can consider several factors.
● The amount of time spent using drugs
● How often drug use occurs
● The type of drug and how much harm it causes
● How responsibly the parent manages their use (i.e., whether they seek treatment or have tried to stop before)
Will I Lose Custody if I Fail a Drug Test?
The short answer? It depends. A parent's drug use is one consideration when determining custody arrangements. If one or both parents test positive for drugs on a drug test, it may affect their ability to get custody or visitation rights for their child(ren).
Typically, failing a drug test alone is not enough evidence to warrant losing custody of your children. Custody arrangements consider what is in the best interests of the child(ren). So, the judge will weigh whether substance abuse has been a problem in the past and whether there is any reason to believe it will continue while the child is in custody. The judge will also look at several other factors.
● Whether there have been any previous arrests related to substance abuse
● Whether there are any other contributing factors, such as mental illness or alcohol abuse.
● Whether there have been any attempts made to address the substance abuse issues since then
● Whether the drug was prescribed
You Don't Have to Go Through the Opiate Epidemic Alone
As parents struggle to heal amid the opiate epidemic, many of North Carolina's children grow up in unstable environments during their earliest years. Unfortunately, this circumstance significantly affects their future.
So, if you or someone you know needs help, please get in touch with Spidell Family Law. From sharing resources to guiding you as you navigate the opiate epidemic and your child custody case, our skilled, compassionate team will be with you every step of the way.