How Does Past Drug Use Affect Child Custody?

divorce lawyer Daniel ExnerQuestion:

My question is about child custody laws and how my history of drug problems will affect my chances at child custody.

I have had problems with drugs when I was younger, but I have been clean and sober for years now.

How much is my past drug use going to effect child custody decision?


While I am not licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction, I can provide you with general divorce help for men to your child custody laws question.

Courts use varying standards when they determine physical placement in family law cases. Where I practice (in Wisconsin), the court may set a placement schedule that allows the child to have regularly occurring, meaningful periods of physical placement with each parent. The court will always consider the best interests of the child when it orders placement.

Situations like this are highly fact intensive and the answer will depend on a multitude of background facts. For example, are you and your daughter’s mother currently married or divorced? Is there a placement order in effect? What is your relationship with the mother? What is the mother’s drug use history and record? Who currently takes care of your daughter and what is the schedule? What steps have you taken regarding your rehabilitation?

I ask these questions because, in Wisconsin, the “best interests” of the child can include the following factors:

1) the child’s wishes;

2) the interrelationship of the child with his or her parents;

3) the amount of time each parent has spent with the child;

4) the child’s age and needs;

5) the cooperation between the parties; and

6) any history of abuse or a criminal record.

Beyond these basic factors, the court will try to make sure the child is in a healthy and stable environment — especially during his or her formative years. In many cases, the key to stability is preserving the child’s status quo.

Primary placement does not happen overnight, especially if the party seeking primary child custody has not habitually exercised that schedule. If your current schedule with your daughter is not primary placement, I recommend taking incremental steps to increase your time with her to demonstrate your ability to exercise primary care.

After considering the answers to my questions and the factors listed above, you should be prepared to critically answer the following questions: (1) why would granting me primary placement of my daughter be in her best interests? (2) Why should my history of drug use not negatively affect the court’s decision?

Given the complex issues that can arise in placement actions, I would strongly recommend seeking advice on divorce from a mens divorce attorney in order to help you develop a child custody legal strategy.

Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers located nationwide. To schedule an appointment with a divorce attorney, including Daniel Exner, a Staff Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office, please contact Cordell & Cordell.

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One comment on “How Does Past Drug Use Affect Child Custody?

    I am 4 months pregnant and live in Nj. The father and i are not together and really never was. However he wants to fight for custody.I will have 15 months clean when baby is born , I do have a record that has drug charges and history of substance abuse. Will the father be granted custody do to my history. I have a stable place to live and I have joint custody of my other son who is 11. My grandmother and myself have custody of my son. We reside in a 4 bedroom house with my grandma so the baby will have it’s own room. I do have sponsor and work a program of recovery please help.

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