The philosophy of the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) is to try to keep families together whenever possible. Courts also consider it desirable to keep families together. Of course, for both the courts and the DCFS, the best interests of the child are of primary importance. Courts usually consider it in the best interests of the child to be raised by his or her natural parents, if the parents are fit to raise the child. Substance abuse by a parent may establish him or her in the eyes of the court as unfit to raise the child. However if the parent is in recovery, he or she will be given an opportunity to complete a treatment program and prove that he or she is rehabilitated and is fit to raise the child.
There are several circumstances in which a parent may lose custody of children for reasons related to drug use. The first and most obvious involves an arrest on drug or alcohol related charges. In these cases parents usually lose custody, at least temporarily. If there are no criminal charges a parent may still lose custody due to drug use, if there has been a report made to DCFS regarding neglect due to substance abuse. Finally substance abuse may be an issue in custody hearings following a divorce. These cases are often the most difficult for courts to decide, because such charges are commonly made by ex-spouses and may or may not be true. Again the interests of the child are of paramount importance and courts will try not to separate parents from children unless it is determined that the parent is unfit to raise the child.
In order to regain custody after rehab the parent must prove to the court that he or she has completed treatment, is successfully in recovery and does not currently use drugs. The length of time the process of regaining custody takes depends on the severity of the case and whether or not there was an arrest involved on drug-related criminal charges. In cases involving drug or alcohol related charges the court will make an evaluation of the case and decide whether or not to award custody following rehab. In cases that do not involve criminal charges, such as cases where the parent lost custody following a custody hearing or an intervention by the DCFS, if the parent has voluntarily entered and successfully completed rehab the DCFS may conduct an evaluation of the parent and present it to the court. In many cases the recommendation of the DCFS is the most influential factor in the court’s decision to allow custody or not.
If you have any questions regarding rehab, custody or your rights as a parent before and after treatment for substance abuse or addiction, call us. Our number is toll free, and we are available 24 hours a day.