After going through the crucible of divorce, and because of any number of factors, the behavior of one spouse may change for the worse. Struggles with alcohol or drugs, or outbursts of violent behavior that may not have been present or apparent at the time the parties divorced may become more pronounced.
When a child is involved, the use or abuse of drugs, alcohol and exposure to conduct which would not be in a child’s best interests could be a strong basis for a change of custody or a modification of an existing access or visitation arrangement.
“Sufficient Change in Circumstances”
In order to modify an existing custody or visitation order, the parent requesting the modification “must demonstrate a sufficient change in circumstances to warrant alteration of the existing custody arrangement in order to ensure the continued best interests of the children.” Griffin v. Griffin.
Substance abuse, violence, and/or other conduct that would be contrary to a child’s best interests, like leaving children unsupervised, may constitute a “sufficient change in circumstances” from when the initial custody or visitation orders were entered.
If there has been a pattern of serious neglect, a history of substance abuse, violent behavior, or any evidence that the child’s living arrangement puts them at risk, a court could completely restrict a parent's rights, mandate that a parent complete an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program, or require a parent to pass a drug or sobriety test before visitation with the child.
Parental violence and/or substance abuse can leave lifetime emotional and psychological scars on a child. If your former spouse is struggling with such issues, it is important for you to take steps as soon as possible to protect your child from such unhealthy behavior. Please give us a call at call us at (212) 683-9551 of fill out our online form to arrange for a consultation.