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Child custody report: Heroin use is breaking up Ohio families

Multiple factors determine where a child lives and how much parenting time takes place when Ohio couples separate or divorce. Many child-rearing decisions are included in plans agreed upon by parents and approved by Columbus family courts. Sometimes child custody issues aren't resolved so smoothly.

The Ohio State Bar Association details the elements involved in deciding disputed child custody cases. Among the considerations are the desires of parents and children, a child's relationship with people closest to him and the stability of a living environment. The health of all concerned parties is another vital factor.

Parents with substance abuse problems are unhealthy, and in the court's eyes, unfit to retain child custody rights. Family court judges do not restrict parent-child relationships temporarily or permanently without good reason. Illegal drug use by parents is one of those reasons.

State health officials reported that heroin use has impacted an increasing number of child custody cases in recent years. Child welfare advocates are worried -- statistics showed an 83 percent increase in custody cases involving heroin between 2010 and 2013. Heroin affected 6,827 custody decisions in 2013 compared to 3,726 decisions in 2010.

Heroin isn't the only drug causing the state to intervene, but the drug's presence in custody cases is growing rapidly. More cases involve parent or caregiver use of cocaine than heroin. Foster care is sometimes the only option the state has to protect children with unstable drug or alcohol-addicted parents.

Officials with the Public Children Services Association of Ohio claim children removed from addicts' homes spend more than four times longer in foster care than other children. The average stay for most children is 70 days. Children taken from a drug or alcohol-addicted parent spend an average of 300 days in foster care.

Removal and parental rights restrictions are extreme measures. Attorneys can advise parents facing allegations of drug use and provide hope for restoring custody rights.

Source: The Blade, "Heroin use soars as factor in removal of Ohio children from parents in custody cases" Associated Press, May. 14, 2014

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