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Addiction can affect child custody orders

It is an all-too-familiar occurrence these days when a Pennsylvania parent struggles with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. With powerful painkillers available through prescriptions, it does not take long for addiction to take hold, leaving some parents unable to fulfill their parental duties. However, if the parents are divorced and following a court-ordered child custody plan, one partner may have concerns about leaving the children with the addicted parent.

The courts hesitate to get involved with minor disagreements between divorced parents. However, when the wellbeing of the children is at risk, a parent may find assistance through legal channels. If one can demonstrate that drug or alcohol use interferes with the other parent's ability to care for the children and keep them safe, the court may order restrictions on visitation. This may include supervised visitation or, in extreme cases, suspension of contact with the children until the parent completes a rehabilitation program.

Some ways in which a parent can show the unfitness of the other parent include providing the court with copies of police records, DUI arrests or hospital records related to drug or alcohol use. The parent may also seek the involvement of the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services, which the courts generally take very seriously. It is always wise for a parent to keep a detailed log of any interactions with a co-parent, especially those interactions involving the children.

While a parent may feel it is unsafe to leave the children with a co-parent who has a substance abuse problem, refusing to honor a court order can result in legal consequences that may affect the concerned parent's own child custody time. If a parent feels the children are in danger, seeking legal advice is a wise move. With the aid of an attorney, a parent can make decisions based on solid information and counsel.

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