As Family lawyers we see every type of family setup and scenario passing through our doors and the Courts. This can often include cases involving parents with drug and alcohol abuse problems and the battle to obtain custody if there is proven abuse issues can be a long road to resolution.
For several years there has been a designated Family Drug & Alcohol Court (FDAC) in London and more recently in two other locations and it has been announced that similar Courts will now open in other parts of the UK.
Statistics by Brunel University have revealed the success of the existing courts with 35% of mothers managing to kick their addictions so their children could be returned to them. This is substantial compared to just 19% going down the usual route of ordinary courts. In these cases the parent will have to demonstrate that they have dealt with these problems within a fairly short timescale in order to avoid children being permanently removed from their care.
The FDAC is different in that it has its own team of experts and doctors on hand and provides very rigorous and closely scrutinised process with parents coming back before the Court on a fortnightly basis for progress updates with regular drug testing. It also deal specifically with cases where the Court is being asked to consider if children should remain living with one or both of their parents when there are drug and alcohol issues.
They do however have to accept that children would be placed with other family members or in foster care while they concentrate on their own problems and therapy.
However, the numbers involved are relatively small and inevitably there will be a higher proportion of people involved in that Court who are motivated to change. Clearly it is no use to anyone who is in denial who is not prepared to cooperate with treatment.
Clearly that type of specialist Court has its place in the scheme of things and it is hoped that this facility will become more generally available.