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Can my ex-spouse win custody after going through drug rehab?

It's something that custodial parents worry about frequently - an ex-spouse with a raging drug addiction successfully completes a course of drug rehab and decides to pursue custody of the kids. Would the courts really award custody to your former husband or wife, given his or her history of substance abuse?

It's not likely that a Texas court will suddenly reverse a custody decision, removing the children from the home of the custodial parent and placing them with the parent who is newly sober after a stint in rehab. However, it is conceivable that the now-sober parent could successfully petition the court for a reinstatement or expansion of his or her visitation rights.

Why would the courts alter custody or visitation arrangements?

The courts are guided by what is in the children's best interest, and, in most circumstances, the belief is that kids do best when both parents are involved in their lives. But judges realize that the road to sobriety is not often a straight path. Many recovering addicts have a series of stutter steps and relapses before they achieve total sobriety.

Parents who have been drunk or high for most of their children's lives often are consumed with guilt and feelings of remorse for all that they have missed of their children's lives. They may want to jump back in feet first to make up for lost time. It's understandable that the custodial parent is naturally leery of exposing their children to a parent who once again may let them down if the parent can't retain their sobriety.

Steps to take if the other parent seeks a custody or visitation modification

No matter how upsetting this may be to you as your children's custodial parent, it's important to remain calm and deal with the situation rationally. Leave the kids out of the matter entirely and discuss the situation with your family law attorney. Together, the two of you can devise a plan that puts the kids' interests first and protects them.

It's important to realize that you probably won't be able to keep your children's other parent from having at least a limited role in their lives. Asking your attorney to pursue supervised visitation with your ex after he or she completes rehab is a reasonable response to his or her petition to modify the custody or visitation order.

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