How Does Alcohol and Drug Use Affect a Custody Battle in Virginia?

The latest high-profile divorce case to hit the headlines has been that of A-list actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. We know very little about the personal details that led to Jolie filing for divorce in a Los Angeles courthouse in September, but what we do know is that she asked for sole custody of the couple’s six children, and the filing suggests she decided to pursue a divorce only days before she filed. Media reports since the filing, however, indicate that drug and alcohol use were a factor, and that Pitt agreed to undergo drug and alcohol testing and meet with a therapist as part of a temporary custody deal. While we cannot say what the actual details are, the Jolie-Pitt narrative does bring up an important question of how alcohol and drug use factor into a custody battle in Virginia.

Substance Abuse and the Best Interests of the Child

In Virginia, a judge will make custody and visitation determinations based on an analysis of what arrangement would serve the best interests of the child. This involves looking at a set of factors, a number of which are affected by a parent’s issues with drug or alcohol, including:

  • The physical and mental condition of each parent
  • The ability of each parent to accurately assess and meet the physical, intellectual, and emotional needs of the child
  • The role that each parent has and will play in the upbringing and care of the child
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to maintain a close, continuing relationship with the child
  • “Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination”

It may go without saying that where one parent can demonstrate to the court that the other parent consistently struggles with drug and alcohol use, this could weigh heavily in favor of the first parent in reaching favorable custody and visitation orders based on an analysis of the above factors.

Drug and Alcohol Testing in Custody Matters

Clearly, when one parent is simply providing testimonial evidence of another parent’s substance abuse problems, and the other parent refutes these accounts, the court will have to determine which account should be trusted. Courts in Virginia do have the ability to order drug testing of any parent, guardian, or legal custodian in making a custody or visitation determination. This can include urine and hair follicle testing, and parties seeking testing of other individuals in a custody matter are encouraged to request this testing early on in the proceedings.

Getting the Help You Need

If you are a parent who is struggling with drug or alcohol use, it is important to understand that judges want to protect your children, but they also want to foster ongoing relationships between parents and children. Furthermore, they have seen firsthand the wonderful relational developments that can occur when a parent takes the steps to get the help he or she needs in addressing a drug or alcohol problem. We all have our own struggles, and demonstrating to a judge that you recognize your struggle and are doing everything you can to deal with it in order to provide a better life for your children can be of immense benefit in the long run in building a relationship with your children and working towards a positive custody arrangement.

Work with Experienced, Compassionate Family Law Attorneys

At Kurylo, Gold & Josey, PLC in Fredericksburg, we will guide through all of your questions regarding child custody, and help you work towards favorable outcomes for you and your children. To schedule a consultation with one of our Virginia family law attorneys, contact Select Law Partners at 540.642.1766.

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Select Law Partners, PLLC

Legal issues can turn your life upside down. Our experienced attorneys serve clients in a variety of divorce and family law matters as well as criminal defense. To better help you plan for the future, we have significant experience with estate planning and asset protection. At Select Law, we provide our clients with customized solutions to their most challenging problems.

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