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Understanding fathers' rights in cases involving addiction

Many Pennsylvania fathers believe that they will come out on top in a custody battle against a spouse with a drug or alcohol problem. In reality, however, courts take a very conservative approach when it comes to limiting a parent's access to his or her child. It's important to understand how fathers' rights play out in a child custody case involving addiction.

If the other parent has a clear history of child abuse or neglect connected to alcohol or drug addiction, the courts are likely to place limitations on visitation. That can mean supervised visitation for a period of time, or visitation only in the presence of a trained therapist. In some cases, an addicted parent is prohibited from visitation until the addiction is under control. 

Things become far less clear when a parent suffers from addiction but has not taken action that have had a direct negative impact on the child. In such cases, fathers are often shocked to learn that the other parent will be granted equal parenting time and responsibilities, even in the face of serious addiction. Part of the problem lies in the difficulty in documenting the extent to which addiction impacts a person's everyday life.

In order to reach a successful outcome in a child custody case, Pennsylvania spouses should collect as much evidence as possible regarding the other parent's struggles with addiction. That includes paperwork on rehab efforts, insurance information documenting treatment and sometimes even financial bills showing a pattern of irresponsible money management. Of course, any evidence to support a concern regarding a child's safety should always be included in a fathers' rights case.

Source:, "Mental Illness, Addiction, and Divorce: Know Your Rights", Stephen Bitsoli, Nov. 8, 2017

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