What to do if a parent is abusing drugs or alcohol

Some divorced parents might be worried about the other parent’s use of alcohol or drugs and its effect on their children. There are steps Pennsylvania parents in this position or those who are going through a divorce with similar worries can take to help protect their children.

During a custody hearing, a judge is focused on the best interests of the child. Therefore, if one parent raises an issue about the other parent’s substance abuse, the judge will examine whether it affects that parent’s ability to parent the child. A judge may also consider any past history of addiction.

If it is after the divorce and the parent is concerned about the child’s immediate safety, denying visitation and taking out a restraining order might be appropriate responses. The parent may need to report the situation to social services or go to court where a judge may change the custody agreement. The parent who is abusing alcohol or drugs may be limited to supervised visitation. A parent who is going to court to try to change the custody agreement should bring documentation, such as police reports, and should also be prepared to demonstrate that the issue affects the other parent’s ability to care for the child.

People who are concerned about their child’s welfare may want to talk to an attorney to determine the best course of action. While family courts generally takes the position that a child should have contact with both parents, the child’s safety is paramount. The appropriate response for a parent may vary depending on the severity of the situation, and an attorney might be able to suggest what is best given the circumstances. It is important that parents do not act in a way that will jeopardize their own custodial or visitation rights.


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