In early July, California reality-television couple Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick announced that they will be ending their relationship. Although many observers assumed that the father’s history of substance abuse and rehabilitation stays would preclude him from winning parental rights over the pair’s three young children, legal advisers said that the outcome of any custody battles that end up taking place may not necessarily depend on his prior indiscretions.

One family law attorney noted that courts often focus on preserving and improving parent-child relationships when making custody determinations. As a result, prior struggles with substance abuse may not be as important as keeping children as safe and healthy as possible.

Courts often employ alternate methods to ensure that parents with substance abuse histories can interact with their children safely. This could include, for example, a requirement that visitation be supervised by a party appointed by the court. One attorney did note, however, that Disick’s seemingly minimal role as a caretaker was likely to weigh more heavily on the court’s decision than his drug usage. The couple’s own decisions and agreements on the matter could ultimately determine whether the family goes through a custody battle at all.

The reputation and prior history of parents often comes into play during child custody disputes. Although there are few legal rules preventing individuals with questionable or unconventional pasts from continuing to play a role in their children’s upbringing, those who have turned their own lives around may face personal attacks and struggle to represent themselves in a good light. A parent who is in this situation may want to obtain the assistance of a family law attorney in presenting their case to the court that is making the determination.