The Legal Impact of Parent or Caregiver Drug Use In NJ

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Feb 24, 2023 | 0 Comments

A recent news story of the overdose of a New Jersey teacher in a middle school classroom highlights the dangers of drug use in the presence of children. After the teacher lost consciousness, children viewed the administration of Narcan and the teacher's resuscitation by paramedics, resulting in charges against the teacher. In the US, 33 states specifically address exposing children to drug use as criminal behavior, and 16 states define even possession of a controlled substance in the presence of children as a felony. New Jersey law does not specifically address this issue, but courts are increasingly concerned about the effect that seeing adults, especially parents, engage in drug use may have on children.

Allegations of Parental Abuse Based on Drug Use

A parent or caregiver may face allegations of child abuse or unfitness as a parent because of drug use or abuse. These allegations can have devastating consequences for the parent and family.

How Courts Become Involved

Courts typically become involved in allegations of parental drug use or abuse in one of two ways:

  • Allegations made during child custody proceedings.
  • Pursuant to a complaint made to the custody court or a state agency.

In New Jersey, complaints of parental fitness based on drug use go before the NJ Division of Child Protection and Dependency (DCP&P)

DCP&P and Allegations of Child Abuse

The DCP& investigates child abuse allegations, including allegations based on drug or alcohol abuse. A parent or person providing care to a child may face allegations of child abuse based on drug use when that drug use limits their ability to supervise and care for a child. But courts view any illicit drug use negatively, and this extends to DCP&P proceedings. A parent accused of child abuse based on drug use should discuss the issue with legal counsel immediately.

A DCP&P complaint may result in a change to the custody order, although the custody court may also hear complaints of parental drug use or abuse.

Child Custody Proceedings

In custody proceedings, a parent may become concerned about the drug use of a co-parent or caregiver. Allegations of drug use must be substantiated and handled carefully. A parent with these concerns should seek legal counsel immediately.

For other parents, allegations of drug or alcohol abuse can negatively impact a child custody case. These allegations may even involve an earlier addiction problem for which the parent has successfully sought treatment. Any parent facing allegations of this type should seek legal counsel immediately.

If you have questions about child custody or DCP&P investigations, contact Joseph Lento and the Lento Law Firm Team online or by phone at 888-535-3686 for a consultation.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in New Jersey and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings! He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and protects their interests.


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience practicing Family Law in New Jersey. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Family Law Attorney Joseph Lento will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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