Addiction and Child Custody Cases in Illinois

addiction to a pile of pills and capsulesAddiction is understandably a sensitive subject when parents disagree about how they will care for their children.  Whether it is the mother or the father, or both, who have addiction issues, the court’s primary objective in these cases remains the best interests of the child.  I have successfully represented parents with addiction issues in Illinois contested child custody cases and am extremely proud of the results we obtained.  Understanding how addiction is factored into these decisions is crucial in such disputes.  In this article, I delve deeper into the legal framework, examine the role of addiction in child custody decisions, and discusses the process for evaluation and rehabilitation.

Legal Basis for Custody Decisions in Illinois

Under Illinois law, child custody decisions are guided by what will best serve the interests of the child. According to 750 ILCS 5/602.7 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act: “It is presumed both parents are fit and the court shall not place any restrictions on parenting time…unless it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a parent’s exercise of parenting time would seriously endanger the child’s physical mental, moral, or emotional health”.   When allocating parenting time and responsibility, the court considers “all relevant factors”, including but not limited to “the mental and physical health of all individuals involved”.

Courts assess the impact of a parent’s addiction on their ability to provide a safe and nurturing environment to the child. For example, hypothetically, if a parent was driving under the influence with their infant in the vehicle and that parent is denying that they have an addiction, the court may be inclined to impose restrictions. The restriction might include supervised parenting time and that the parent at issue use SoberLink before driving a vehicle with the child or children.  On the other hand, if a parent has an addiction that has not been shown to impact the children yet and the parent is showing they are willing to follow the recommendations of medical professionals and the court.

This does not mean that a parent should deny or hide addiction.  Courts generally view a parent favorably if the parent is taking the right steps to address their addiction issues.  Having an experienced family law attorney to help the parent assess their situation and navigate the legal process is invaluable when addiction is a factor.

Impact of Addiction on Parental Rights

Addiction is seen by Illinois courts not just as a personal health issue but as a factor that can affect their ability to parent. Statute 750 ILCS 5/603.10(a) empowers Illinois courts to restrict a parent’s decision-making or parenting time if it finds that a parent engaged in conduct that seriously endangered the child’s mental, moral, or physical health or that significantly impaired the child’s emotional development.  In practice, this means that if one parent alleges that the other’s addiction affects their parenting, the court must closely investigate these claims. Evidence typically considered includes:  Drug testing, testimonies by family members and/or therapists, medical reports and rehabilitation records, records of any related legal issues, like DUIs.  The court’s findings in these areas can lead to supervised visits, mandatory rehabilitation, or in severe cases, the loss of custody.

a couple of people sitting together concerned about child custody

In my experience, judges and Guardian ad litem can and should consider addiction but they should assess fairly and in context.  Courts should not simply use addiction as an automatic reason to deny parenting time.



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The Path to Recovery and Custody Modification

While addiction can impact a parent’s custody rights, Illinois courts also recognize the potential for recovery. A parent in recovery who demonstrates consistent effort and progress can petition for a modification of parenting time.

a small potted plant next to a sign about addition recovery and improved child custody

The importance of showing documented recovery efforts cannot be overstated. Courts look favorably on actions such as:

  • Ongoing participation in rehabilitation programs
  • Regular attendance at support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Positive changes in lifestyle and employment stability
  • Clean drug tests over a significant period

A list of addiction treatment centers in Cook County, Illinois is available at


Expert Advice and Legal Assistance

Navigating child custody issues amid addiction concerns demands proficient legal guidance. An experienced attorney can help present a case effectively, focusing on evidence of improvement and the parent’s commitment to the child’s well-being.



In conclusion, Illinois law provides a robust framework for addressing addiction within the context of child custody, always with a focus on what best serves the child. It recognizes both the challenges posed by addiction and the possibilities for rehabilitation. For parents facing these issues, it’s crucial to understand the legal landscape, gather comprehensive evidence, and, where possible, demonstrate a clear and sustained commitment to recovery. This approach not only helps in legal proceedings but is vital in ensuring the well-being of the child involved.

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If you are looking for legal advice and representation with an Illinois divorce, schedule a consultation with experienced Chicago divorce attorney, Tanya Witt, at (312) 500-5400 or

Representing men and women in Chicago divorce and child custody cases.

This blog does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney regarding your specific case.