Substance Abuse in your Paternity or Divorce matter....... : BLOG
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Substance Abuse in your Paternity or Divorce matter.......

by St. Petersburg/Florida Family Law Attorney on 06/04/16

Effective October 1, 2008, Fla Stat 61.13(3) includes as a factor for determination of the best interest of the minor child for the purposes of establishing or modifying parental responsibility and creating, developing, approving, or modifying a parenting plan, subsection (q) "the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse."  If you suspect that the other party is a substance abuser or has been accused of being a substance abuse user, you might address the issue with your lawyer (assuming you are being represented by counsel).  Usually, the individual being accused of substance abuse will be in a state of denial, which is common as both alcoholism and substance abuse are diseases of denial.  If possible, information should be gathered on the earliest experiences with substances in their family growing up, in their adolescence, peer, family and other influences and patterns of use throughout the years.  


Identification of cocaine abuse involves physical symptoms including brief and intense euphoria, restlessness, and feelings of well-being.  In instances like this, you are more likely to find glass vials, white powder, razor blades, and syringes around the house.  Bring this to your lawyer immediately!  In addition, the abuser may exhibit severe depression and paranoia.  

Identification of marijuana abuse involves physical symptoms of altered mood and perceptions, red eyes, reduced concentration, hunger, inappropriate laughing, and euphoria.  You may find rolling papers in the house, pipes, and dried leaves with an odor around the house to bring to your lawyer.  The marijuana user may exhibit impaired short term memory as well.

Identification of hallucinogenic abuse (LSD, PCP, ecstasy) involves physical symptoms of altered mood and perceptions, extreme focus on detail, anxiety, and panic.  You may find capsules, tablets, microdots, and blotter squares around the house to bring to your lawyer.  The abuser may exhibit unpredictable behavior, emotional instability, impulsiveness, or violent behavior.  

Once there is identification of this issue by either party, even if there is denial of any validity to the claim, both parties should enter into a stipulation prior to proceeding to and regarding evaluation, intervention, monitoring, protections, and consequences.

Even if the party denies abuse, commit the accused party to attending 30 N.A. meetings in 30 days and the accuser to 30 Narnon or Co-Dependents Anonymous (for families of a chemically dependent person), meetings in 30 days until the completion of a professional evaluation, as this commits both parties to addressing the problem, shows good faith on both parties' parts, and provides some education to both parties.  

Substance abuse unfortunately is an issue that comes up very often in relationships, and more so, when children are involved.  If you feel that the other parent is currently abusing drugs, or has had in the past, please take action immediately!  You do not want to put your life, or your child(ren's) life in danger by not taking the appropriate steps to remedy a potentially volatile situation.  We offer free in-office consultations, as well as over the phone.  


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