Custody Issues in Drug-Exposed Baby Cases

Q: Does the protocol for the custody of children born exposed to drugs keep kids safe?

When couples with children divorce or otherwise dissolve their relationship, the court will consider what is in the best interest of the child when determining how much legal decision-making and parenting time each parent will have with the children. “Legal decision-making” has replaced the term “custody” and as its name implies, refers to the parent’s ability to make major life decisions on behalf of the children. “Parenting time” is the time the children will spend in the physical custody of each parent.

Some of the many factors a court is required to consider when determining what is in the child’s best interests include the physical and mental health of the child; history of domestic violence or child abuse; evidence suggesting a parent intentionally lied to the court; whether either parent has complied with parenting class requirements, and more.

Sometimes, parents request a modification of legal decision-making or parenting time orders for benign reasons like needing additional time with the child in order to coach a sports team or be a scout leader. Other times, modifications are sought by a parent on an emergency basis in an effort to avoid a situation in which immediate irreparable physical or emotional harm could come to the children.

Parents are not always in control and of legal decision-making or parenting time.

Sometimes an outside agency like The Arizona Department of Child Safety (“DCS”) steps in to protect at-risk children and may remove them to foster care in certain situations. One reason DCS may become involved in a family’s life is when a baby is born having been exposed to drugs.

One example would be the case of the Phoenix couple whose involvement with DCS reportedly began after one of their children was born exposed to drugs. Thereafter, a second child was also reportedly born exposed to drugs. Over the course of DCS’s involvement with the couple, they reportedly lost and regained custody of their children. According to DCS, both parents reportedly “engaged in services to address their drugs and domestic violence issues “.

Tragically, the mother reportedly left a loaded gun on the bed with her two and four-year-old sons nearby and the two-year-old fatally shot his nine-year-old brother in the head. Investigators claim and there was evidence of  what “appears to be a substantial amount of blood cleanup it was done inside the home prior to emergency services being cold to aid “the boy. Apparently “this intentional delay in medical treatment significantly endangered the health” of the boy. Both parents have been charged with first-degree murder.

If you or someone you love has been physically, verbally, or emotionally abused by their spouse or another relative, the police and an experienced family law and domestic violence attorney can help ensure your physical safety. Cohen Family Law in Phoenix Arizona has been helping families with all aspects of divorce, child support, child custody, and more since 1982. Call us today at 602-714-8898 for a consultation.