September 11, 2019 Stacey Mendelson 0 Comments

Spoiler alert: I am writing in frustration over a trend I see happening in family court. This may offend readers and it is strictly my own opinion.

Lately I have been involved in several high-conflict child custody cases with my clients. Four of these cases involve an ex-spouse with a history of substance abuse.

With these clients, I have compiled timelines and spreadsheets that demonstrate the history and evidence of substance abuse. These are pretty compelling documents. One might think that sole custody is a slam dunk, right?


It seems that there is a current trend in family court to prioritize parental rights over child safety. People like to call this a father’s rights movement, but it also applies to moms with addiction issues being granted unsupervised access with little or no drug monitoring if they have been clean for over a year.

Here’s the thing with addiction. Relapse rates are 40-60%. Relapse can occur even after several years of clean living. In fact, a relapse is not even considered a failure but rather a predictable sequela to the chronic disease of addiction.

Addiction needs to be considered a chronic disease like cancer. It may go into remission but it has the potential to recur. Successful treatment for addiction requires continual evaluation and modification as appropriate, similar to the approach taken for other chronic diseases.

If a child is not able to advocate for themselves, if they cannot verbally or physically refuse to go into the car with mom when she has “that funny face on”, mandatory testing is the only way to keep theses kids safe… even if this encroaches on a parent’s autonomy.

The bar for healthy parenting is at an all-time low. Assessors and courts seem so busy appeasing ‘recovered’ parents and their aggressive lawyers. Their only mandate is supposed to be child safety!

The question I want to ask of the expert doing the assessment or the judge making a ruling is: Would you leave your child in the unsupervised care of this adult? Would you want certain safety measures enforced if your young child was ordered to be in their care?

The question I want to ask the parent is: What is more important to you than your child’s wellbeing? Winning in court? Punishing your ex? Keeping your illness hidden?

If a parent is truly child-centred, then they can park their egos and submit to any measures needed to keep their children safe until the children can keep themselves safe.

Rant over.