Addiction recovery: Are you trying to get your back your parenting time following addiction? Here is what New Jersey family law says about your rights and responsibilities as a parent in recovery.
Note: This is second part of our special 2-part series on parenting time and addiction recovery. Read part 1: How Recovering Addicts Can Get Parenting Time.
Governor Chris Christie has declared New Jersey’s opioid addiction crisis similar to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. In fact, in 2015, New Jersey’s rate of heroin and opioid overdoses was two times the national rate and had increased 22 percent just from the year before. Christie promised to address this issue and help those addicted by adding more beds at treatment facilities and signing a law that requires insurance companies in New Jersey to pay for six months of addiction treatment.
Addiction to opioids, alcohol or any other type of substance is certainly not new. New Jersey residents from all walks of life can battle one form of addiction or another and many of these residents are also parents. When addiction becomes out of control, help is out there and many suffering from addiction are able to recover and continue to heal for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, while in the throes of addiction, parents may have lost the ability to spend time with their kids and may have even lost rights to parenting time altogether. When these parents get their lives back on track, how do they get to see their kids again?
When you are ready and recovering your first step is to examine completely any court orders that were filed regarding you and your children:
- Did your child’s other parent file a formal motion with the court asking that your parenting time be terminated?
- Was DYFS (now, DCP&P) involved with your family and did they make a recommendation to the court about your parenting time or custody rights?
You have the right to be provided with all court documents relating to your family. If you have not received or kept your court paperwork, go to the courthouse where any cases were decided and ask the clerk for copies of all documents relating to you and your children. These can be custody matters, parenting time matters or even DYFS matters, so make sure that you are getting all your files from the courthouse.
If you determine that there was a formal court order that stopped or suspended your parenting time because of your addiction or for reasons related to your addiction, you should consider filing a motion with the court asking that your parenting time be reinstated. In your paperwork that you will file with the court and also provide to your child’s other parent, you will indicate why you should have your parenting time reestablished. Tell your story of your recovery. Outline the treatment that you have received, any medications you are now taking and how long you have been clean and sober.
You should include any plans or outline any steps that you intend to take to continue on your path of recovery and you should also attach to your paperwork any discharge summaries from treatment, relevant doctor’s reports, statements from other professionals that my support your request and any proof that you have enrolled in follow-up treatment. If your case goes to a hearing, you may have to ask these professionals to come to court and testify on your behalf. It is always helpful to have your therapist or physician tell the court how well you have progressed and that your outlook is positive.
The judge will decide your case based upon what is in the best interests of your children. If you do have a hearing, be prepared that your ex may oppose you spending any parenting time with the kids because of your past. But, this is to be expected and you have worked very hard at becoming healthy. Initially, the court may give you supervised parenting time with your children where either court staff supervise your time spent with them, or a friend or family member agreed upon by you and their other parent are there with you and the kids. Supervised parenting time is really a safety precaution and is meant to be only temporary in nature. If your parenting time is held at the courthouse, the staff supervising the visits will submit a report to the judge for a later court date where, hopefully, the court amends your supervised parenting time to unsupervised parenting time. You and your ex could also come to an agreement at any time regarding your parenting time, if all has been going well with you and the children.
Above all, be reasonable in your expectations and your wishes. It’s been a difficult time for your family and although you have made tremendous progress, it is unlikely that you will automatically jump into overnight weekend visits with your children. You must take time to build back your relationship and trust from them, your ex and your children.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and it is impacting your parenting time or custody rights with your child, please contact us to speak with one of our qualified attorneys experienced in New Jersey family and custody law. Take the first step. Call us today: 888-888-0919.