Child Custody and Substance Abuse 

April 4, 2019

Determining child custody encompasses many factors and must be handled with delicacy in the dissolution of any marriage involving children. One issue that may complicate matters and create concern over the well-being of the children may be a substance abuse problem afflicting one of the parents.

Alcohol or drug abuse may disrupt a parent’s ability to safely tend to a child’s needs. In ensuring the safety of the children, several steps must be taken, and abuse concerns must be brought up during the custody hearing.

Retaining the services of a Chester County child custody lawyer is vital in gaining directives in proving a parent may be unfit during divorce proceedings, due to excessive substance use.

Drug or alcohol use alone may not be enough to support a case, but an experienced lawyer will instruct concerned former spouses how to establish a child custody agreement that keeps children safe, especially when it may be inhibiting parenting abilities.

Before Determining Child Custody

In determining a child custody arrangement, concerns may be brought up before the judge, including those regarding parental substance abuse.

For any custody case, the mission overall is to keep the best interests of the child intact. When one parent’s apparent substance abuse is called into question, the judge will weigh several items in determining custody. Allegations of abuse will be examined to verify them. Determinations will be made if the alcohol or drug use adversely affects the parent’s ability to properly care for the children.

Additionally, any documentation of substance abuse from past to present will be evaluated in the scope of the case.

After Determining Child Custody

If child custody arrangements were made prior to substance abuse evidence, custodial circumstances can be altered if necessary.

The spouse alleging substance abuse in the other parent must inform the court that issued the initial custody court order, or the Pennsylvania Bureau of Child and Family Services. Parental contact and visitation rights for the alleged substance abuser may be limited by the judge, who will draw up an updated custodial agreement.

Visits for the non-custodial parent deemed unfit due to drug abuse may be supervised by a social worker or designated family member. Until the parent who engages in substance abuse enrolls in a rehabilitation program or demonstrates responsible behavior, they will be ineligible for unsupervised visits.

Drug testing may be administered to both parents to detect excessive drug abuse, no matter who is suspected of abuse.

Proving Substance Abuse in a Custody Case

Several factors comprise proof of substance abuse in custody cases. Extensive documentation is required to prove that the parent is unfit to care for the child or be allowed visitation rights.

Documented reports of abusive behavior should include specific incidences showing substance abuse issues. Accounts of past drug abuse or criminal acts involving alcohol or drugs must be offered as well. Parents may deny visitation or file for a restraining order against the alleged abuser. Drug testing may be used as proof of abuse.

Chester County Child Custody Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Safeguard the Well-Being of Families in Crisis

If you or your former spouse are experiencing any difficulties in reaching a custody agreement, contact the Chester County child custody lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. We understand the nuances of determining child custody and will ensure that the well-being and safety of your family remains intact. Call us at 610-565-3701 or contact us online to arrange a consultation with one of our seasoned legal professionals. We proudly serve clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County from our offices in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania.