In California, the courts apply a best interest of the child standard when it comes to determining custody. The standard takes a number of distinct factors into account to consider a parent’s general fitness. Even in cases where custody has already been decided, the court may alter a custody or visitation arrangement in some circumstances. If one of the parents begins to abuse drugs or alcohol, for example, the court may order changes such as requiring supervision during visitation.

When courts get involved, they are equipped to take action. In a case where substance abuse has a negative impact on the parent’s ability to take care of the child or where the parent poses a risk to the well-being of the child, the judge will generally conduct an investigation.

The substance abuse history of the parent may be relevant in some cases. Judges may consider the parent’s individual histories with drugs and alcohol before making a determination on child custody, for example. In a case where one parent is concerned about substance abuse on the part of the other, the law has procedures to address the issue.

The concerned parent might document relevant incidents and bring the issue up during family court proceedings. The court may find that DUI charges, police reports and other documentary evidence of substance abuse are relevant. In a situation where a parent is in fear for the safety of the child, the law provides for restraining orders and refusal of visitation in some circumstances. An attorney with experience in family law might be able to help by gathering evidence or preparing for child custody proceedings. The attorney could argue that the family court should address a parent’s substance abuse.