Can a Mother Lose Custody for Drug Use in Tennessee?

can a mother lose custody for drug use

No parent wants to imagine losing custody of their child. But for parents struggling with drug addiction, that’s a very real possibility. The courts take drug use extremely seriously, and if you’re in this situation, you need to understand how it could impact your custody rights.

This blog post will explain what factors judges look at when a mother’s drug use is brought into a custody case. We’ll cover what counts as putting your child’s well-being at risk and potential options if you’re making efforts toward recovery. It’s a tough situation, but having the facts can help you make the best choices moving forward.

How Tennessee Judges Make Child Custody Decisions

In Tennessee, child custody decisions are made based on the “best interests of the child”—whatever that may look like.

Judges take into account a number of factors, like:

  • The strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent
  • Each parent’s ability to perform parenting responsibilities and encourage a relationship with the other parent
  • Willingness of parents to follow court-ordered parenting plans and arrangements
  • Each parent’s ability to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education and other care
  • Which parent has been the primary caregiver
  • The love, affection, and emotional ties between each parent and child
  • The emotional needs and developmental level of the child
  • The moral, physical, mental and emotional fitness of each parent as it relates to parenting ability
  • The importance of continuity in the child’s living environment
  • Evidence of any physical or emotional abuse to the child or other parent
  • The character and behavior of other persons residing with or frequenting a parent’s home
  • The reasonable preference of the child if 12 years or older
  • Each parent’s employment schedule
  • Any other factors deemed relevant by the court

When substance abuse enters the picture, it can significantly influence the court’s perception of a parent’s fitness to care for their child. Judges may view excessive alcohol consumption or drug use as a serious risk to a child’s safety and emotional well-being, potentially leading to restrictions on custody or visitation rights.

How Drug Use Can Impact Child Custody Cases

Because Tennessee requires courts to make custody determinations based on the “best interests of the child,” this gives judges a lot of discretion when deciding who gets custody and parenting time. As a result, courts can order parents to take drug tests during custody battles, even without concrete evidence of substance abuse.

If a parent refuses court-ordered drug testing, the court may decide their refusal to take the test means they would fail the test if they took it. They may face penalties like reduced custody or visitation rights. And if they test positive, potential consequences include:

However, a positive test alone does not automatically terminate custody or access to the child – the courts evaluate the full situation. Parents may also raise concerns about a co-parent’s drug use by presenting evidence like criminal drug convictions or positive workplace drug tests.

This could lead to arguments for supervising that parent’s visits to protect the child from substance abuse risks.

Could a Person Lose Parental Rights Due to Drug Abuse?

To lose parental rights due to drug use, there must be convincing evidence of unfitness to parent. Courts never make these decisions lightly.

Examples could include:

  • Prenatal drug exposure that causes harm to the child
  • Manufacturing or selling illegal drugs in the presence of the child
  • Allowing the child to have access to illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia
  • Child neglect or abuse resulting from being under the influence of drugs
  • Exposing the child to domestic violence or other dangerous situations tied to drug use
  • Inability to provide a safe, stable home environment for the child due to addiction
  • Repeatedly leaving the child unsupervised or with unfit caregivers to obtain/use drugs
  • Conviction of serious drug crimes that result in incarceration
  • Failing to complete court-ordered rehab or make efforts to address substance abuse issues
  • Continuing a lifestyle of active addiction that puts the child at risk of harm

Battling an addiction does not automatically make someone an unfit parent in the eyes of the court. But a pattern of behavior showing an inability to prioritize a child’s needs and safety due to drugs or alcohol could lead to loss of physical and potentially legal custody.

Maintaining the Parental Bond Through Supervised Visitation

Stripping a person of their parental rights completely is generally a last resort. Courts prefer to put safeguards in place to allow parenting time when it can be managed safely. This maintains the child’s bond with both parents.

If substance abuse creates safety risks, the court may order supervised visitation. This allows parenting time while ensuring an addicted parent remains sober when with the child. Visits may occur at designated facilities with professional monitors. Family members or friends can also be approved supervisors.

Courts often require continued drug testing during supervised visitation. Parents may also be required to show proof of completing treatment programs. Meeting these conditions over time can demonstrate rehabilitation, eventually leading to unsupervised visitation.

Protecting Your Child’s Best Interests

While overcoming addiction isn’t easy, taking steps to get help and demonstrate your commitment to recovery can positively influence custody decisions. Seeking treatment, counseling, drug testing, and providing a stable environment are key.

Don’t try to navigate this alone. The Law Office of Sam Byrd can guide you through the custody process while you get your life back on track. Our experienced attorneys give you the best chance at maintaining a healthy parent-child relationship.

Prioritize sobriety to show you’re a responsible, present parent. With dedication and proper legal counsel from the Law Office of Sam Byrd, preserving your sacred parental rights may be possible.

Author Bio

Sam Byrd is the owner and managing attorney at The Law Office of Sam Byrd. With hands-on experience in divorce, family law, criminal law, and DUI/DWI cases, Sam has been serving clients in Tennessee since 2012. He graduated with a J.D. from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2012 and holds a B.S. in Legal Studies from the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga, where he graduated summa cum laude in 2009.

He began his legal career as a paralegal, working under his father’s guidance. Prior to that, Sam served in the United States Marine Corps as a member of the 2/7 Weapons Company stationed at 29 Palms, California.

Sam has received several accolades for his work, including being recognized as a Rising Star in Divorce & Family Law by Tennessee SuperLawyers in 2020, 2019, and 2018. He is also a member of The National Trial Lawyers’ Top 40 under 40, an exclusive professional organization for top trial lawyers under the age of 40. Sam’s commitment to continuous learning and improvement is demonstrated by his certifications in Trial Skills from the National College of DUI Defense in 2019 and 2018.

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