Well, in New Jersey, as is the case across the country, again the guiding principle for evaluating any type of mental health condition, including a substance abuse disorder is considered the DSN five, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual. This is the pole star if you will of the psychological community. And this book defines a period of recovery of 12 months or sustained non-use of the substance and the ability to abstain from further usage. Once you get one year, you’re in full recovery. Now that doesn’t mean you have to wait one full year before you can consider any type of more liberalized access to the children or be considered safe from engaging in ill behavior because you have this addiction. Obviously the longer you get, the more time you get between when you were found to have had an active use and abuse of a substance, to the time that you’re asking the court to allow you access to your children, the better. So, typically what I tell people is you need at least six months as that’s typically what we see in the courts across New Jersey. You need at least six months before a court is going to feel comfortable with allowing you unsupervised contact or minimally supervised contact. And generally once you get past six months, you’re in a much safer area for a court to say that you’re not at great risk for relapse even though you have to be engaged in a recovery process and be engaged in some type of relapse prevention if you want to truly assure the court that you’re not going to be at risk to harm the children.
Allison C. Williams is a matrimonial and family law attorney serving Short Hills New Jersey. Her practice places an emphasis on complex child welfare matters. www.familylawyersnewjersey.com