When there is an agreement or order of custody, it cannot be changed down the road unless there is a "material change in circumstances" in the custodial parent’s household adversely affecting the children. People who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction may worry that seeking treatment may cause them to lose their children.

Of course, its not a good situation, but seeking treatment should not be avoided if the addiction is causing damage. The Supreme Court has never held that a custodial parent’s rehabilitative treatment, alone, constitutes a material change in circumstances warranting a change in custody. Something more is required.

In the recent case of Bryant v. Bryant, No. 2011-CA-00669-COA (12/11/2012), the Court found that a woman who received rehabilitative treatment for cocaine addiction should lose custody of her children where the evidence showed some of the following additional circumstances:
  • She was caught using cocaine as a part of random drug testing after a conviction for forgery.
  • She had three serious one car accidents.
  • The child testified he was not doing well in school.
  • The child testified he and his sibling were scared and insecure with their mother being out late at night.
  • The child testified their mother went out at night after putting them to bed.
When there is an addiction, legal counsel should be immediately be consulted and treatment should be sought before damage is done which results in a permanent loss of custody or harm to the children.
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