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3 ways substance abuse affects child custody decisions

On Behalf of | Feb 10, 2023 | Child Custody

If you are a Pennsylvania parent who has recently filed for divorce or had papers served to you, you no doubt hope to achieve a settlement centrally focused on your children’s well-being. You might also be one of many parents who have struggled to overcome an alcohol or drug addiction. It is understandable that these issues will be relevant to child custody proceedings in your case, although it doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot gain custody or visitation privileges.  

When a parent has a substance abuse problem or has had one in the past, the court must determine whether children would be at risk if the parent in question were to be awarded legal or physical custody, or were to be granted scheduled visitation privileges. If you have been sober for an extended period of time, your chances for gaining custody or visitation are much better than they might be if it remains an ongoing problem.  

Legal versus physical child custody 

If the court grants you legal custody of your children, it means that you have the authority to make decisions on their behalf. Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to where your children live following your divorce. The judge overseeing your case might determine that a shared legal and physical custody arrangement would be best. He or she might also determine that your children are less at risk if you have restricted visitation, such as supervised visits on a regular basis.  

When there is evidence of parental substance abuse, the court might prohibit you from contact with your children. Every case is unique. A family court judge’s priority is to ensure your children’s best interests through whatever decision he or she ultimately makes in child custody proceedings.  

Undergoing treatment to regain child custody 

In some cases, the court might order a parent to enter a rehabilitation program in order to regain child custody after a divorce. If this happens in your case, whether the court allows you to continue visiting your kids or prohibits you from doing so until you demonstrate completion of the program is a decision made at the court’s discretion.  

It’s understandable that you would be greatly upset if the court forbids you from seeing your children or living with them until after settling your divorce. However, a ruling such as this does not mean that you should lose hope because many parents have been able to overcome substance abuse issues and gain the court’s permission to play active roles in their children’s lives. If you are unsure of your parental rights or are concerned about child custody issues, you can seek guidance from someone who specializes in Pennsylvania divorce and custody laws.