Severe Addiction Could Cost Custody Rights in Indiana

A bill was recently proposed in the Alabama legislature that would allow the state to terminate parental rights in cases where a parent, addicted to drugs or alcohol, had relapsed after receiving a second round of in-patient treatment.Our Munster child custody lawyers know that if this law were to pass, while it wouldn’t affect Indiana families directly, it could set a troubling precedent.

This is not to say that the state does not have a valid interest in protecting the children from harm caused by a drug-addicted parent. Indeed, it does. However, both in Indiana and in Alabama, there are legal provisions that allow either the other parent or the state to step in and seek remedies – up to and including termination of parental rights. Capping treatment options is not the solution.

While we understand the framers of the bill had intended to draw the line when it comes to protecting our children and saying, “Enough is enough,” it may actually end up resulting in fewer parents seeking much-needed treatment, for fear they may lose their children if they falter one more time.

That being said, we have represented numerous clients who were at their wits’ end with the seemingly endless cycle of addiction of their former spouse. In many cases, that was what led to divorce in the first place.

In cases like this, one of the first things we might seek to do is file for emergency child custody. This won’t be a permanent order, but it will allow you to keep your child safe while the courts have an opportunity to sort through all the details of what is being alleged.

Your first step in a case like this, in which you fear for your child’s safety due to your ex’s addiction, would be to contact an experienced family law attorney. He or she can help you file the petition, which will allow you to get an immediate hearing, as it is considered an emergency. Your lawyer may also at the same time submit a form requesting a more permanent custody arrangement be addressed at a later date. This will allow you to pursue the long-term custody arrangement, whether the court grants the temporary order or not.

With the understanding that these situations sometimes unfold rapidly, you still want to try to be as prepared as possible. Bring any relevant police reports, voice mail recordings, text messages, e-mails or photographs that could serve to further bolster your case. Specific examples might be reports of a DUI or drug-related arrest or previous convictions, photographs of drugs or paraphernalia in the home or statements from third party witnesses attesting to the severity of the other parent’s addiction and the danger it poses to the child.

Termination of parental rights in Indiana is altogether another matter, but it is one that may be initiated in the most severe of circumstances. Some potential circumstances in which termination of rights is considered by the court:

  • The child has been living in an alternative care situation (foster care or with a relative) for at least six months;
  • The parent has been convicted of a series crime (i.e., murder, manslaughter, rape, sexual misconduct, etc.) and the victim was either under the age of 16 or the child named in the petition;
  • There is a reasonable probability that either the problems that led to the child’s removal from the home won’t be remedied or the child’s continued relationship with the parent poses a harm to his or her well-being;
  • Termination of rights is in the child’s best interest;
  • There is a satisfactory plan for care and treatment of the child following the termination of rights.

Courts in Indiana take child custody loss and parental rights termination very seriously. If you need legal assistance in either of these matters, contact us today.

Indiana Family Law Attorney Burton A. Padove handles divorce and child custody matters throughout northern Indiana, including Gary, Hammond and Calumet City. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:
HB236, Feb. 12, 2013, Alabama House of Representatives

More Blog Entries:
High Conflict Child Custody in Indiana Now Resolved Through Parallel Parenting, March 15, 2013, Munster Child Custody Lawyer Blog

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