My ex is using meth. How can I keep my kids safe?

Question: I know my ex is using meth and is putting my kids in the middle of her problem. What can I do to keep my kids safe?



Answer: At the outset, substance abuse is a very serious issue, as I am sure you know. If you have concrete proof of your ex’s abuse, please get help immediately. This may mean contacting the police or a mental illness center to assess her ability to parent your children, for their safety’s sake. Contact your community health department to learn whether you qualify for low- or no-cost services.

As for your parenting time question, you must bring this issue to the court’s attention if you want to enforce or modify your order. Whether you will prevail depends on the specific facts in your case – Do you have proof of your ex’s substance abuse or just a suspicion? Are the parenting time denials willful or accidental? And so forth. In addition to consulting a lawyer in your area for a thorough review of your case, consider these options:

Informal Court Enforcement: Research the resources in your area for parenting time and custody enforcement. Many states do not require a court motion before a judge to enforce court orders. Other resources, such as parenting time monitors, counselors, and custody mediators, exist. In Michigan, for example, parents who have missed visitation with their children may file a complaint to request make up time within 56 days of the missed visit. A parenting time counselor will review the complaint and issue an opinion in writing to both parents within 21 days. You should consult with a lawyer to learn about the resources available to you.

Contempt: If your ex simply refuses to follow your court’s order, consider filing a motion to have your judge hold her in contempt for disobedience. The judge will order her to comply, perhaps with make up parenting time, and you will create a record of your denied time in the event you need to modify the order later. The procedures for these motions vary by jurisdiction.

Motion to Modify: If your ex purposely denies your time or if you have proof beyond a hunch that she is abusing drugs again, consider filing a motion to modify physical custody or parenting time. The standards vary by state. In general, your unhappiness with the order is not enough; you must show a proper cause or change in circumstances since the last order to justify the change. Some states require a higher burden if you are not a joint physical custodian. These motions generally require more time, in and out of court, than the resources mentioned above and thorough preparation. The long-term benefits could be worth the effort, however.

Document. Be sure to document when you will exercise parenting time and what happens if parenting time goes awry. Confirm the dates you intend to exercise parenting time in writing. Include contact information where you can be reached in the event of a last-minute schedule change. Keep a journal to document your concerns – Was your ex late for pick up or drop off? How did the exchange go? How did she appear (e.g. high)? Who else was present? This is somewhat therapeutic, and it will also refresh your memory when discussing your case with a lawyer and if you need to testify in the future. Be precise and professional, and avoid any nasty naming calling – writings from you may be admissible in court as substantive evidence or for impeachment.

Keep in mind that I am a Michigan attorney and cannot give you detailed advice about the laws in Tennessee. You should not rely on this answer as establishing an attorney-client relationship, and you should contact an attorney in your area immediately for additional information and representation. Cordell & Cordell has an office in Tennessee if you wish to discuss your case with us.


Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

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4 comments on “My ex is using meth. How can I keep my kids safe?

    My ex is on meth and heroin both were found in his system and we have shared parenting now 5 day after he was hospitalized he wants to take him to his house I live in the state of Ohio now he says he’s going to take me to court for contempt of court do I have the right to keep my son away from him do we have police documentation in hospital records

    Custody determination
    Almost every state determines custody and visitation issues based on the best interests of the child standard. State statutes and case law define this standard differently, but in general there are certain factors and themes that appear in the majority of states.

    So when you ask the inevitable question of “what are my chances I’ll get custody”, here is a general list of what the courts use to analyze the “best interests of the child,” according to Cordell & Cordell attorney Jennifer Paine.

    The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
    The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
    The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care.
    The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
    The permanence of the existing or proposed home or homes.
    The moral fitness of the parties involved.
    The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
    The home, school, and community record of the child.
    The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
    The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent of the child and parents.
    Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
    Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to the particular family.

    You will find the same or similar factors in most states.

    So playing a part in the child custody analysis will be your location at the time of the divorce, your relationship with your children, your relationship with your spouse, who was the primary caregiver, where the children have an established, familiar environment, where the children go to school, which parent is more likely to encourage the children’s current religious education, etc.

    An experienced family law attorney will know how to advocate on your behalf.

    Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers located nationwide.

    Wife is an addict and alcoholic
    We have been married 8 yrs (still are) and I don’t know what to do. We have a 4 yr old son. My problem is I have suffered through years of drug and alcohol abuse with her. I stood by her and pleaded for her to stay clean and attend her meetings. She was in a rehabilitation clinic for 4 weeks 2 years ago. She has her “stumbles” and starts up again. I still care for her, but I need to be happy and keep my son safe. When shes not using shes a great mom. The thought of her not being able to live with her son will kill her. What can I do to prepare myself for when she relapses? Will I be able to divorce her and get the judges favorable decision to allow me to keep my son.I don’t mind a rehabiliative support to help her. I dont want her not to see him, but I need to find a solution. I’m depressed and feel like I’m being selfish to want out and leave her. She will be totally lost. My health and my sons health and well being come first.

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