Alcohol and/or other substance abuse is a known factor in many domestic relations cases. If one party drinks to excess, or uses drugs it can have an significant impact on the marital relationship and on the children. Tensions build, it can lead to secrecy, alienation, breakdown in communication; there may be episodes of violence, the substance abuse may lead to economic problems if it impacts ability to work or sustain a job, and it causes numerous other problems. Oftentimes, the effects of substance abuse on a relationship take years to manifest because one or both parties may be in denial.
A happy, successful, outwardly stable family can become unstable through the pain of alcoholism. Regardless of what triggers the alcoholism, if this is a factor in your family dynamic, it is important to acknowledge it.
The Pennsylvania Courts take substance abuse very seriously. Because the best interests of the children are primary, Courts carefully will consider evidence of substance abuse in any custody determination. If there is any concern that the health or welfare of a child is endangered by being in the custody a parent who is an alcoholic or substance abuser, primary physical custody could be granted to the other parent , and the substance using parent might be denied physical custody or granted limited supervised partial custody.
The non- substance abusing parent might feel guilt at separating the child(ren) from the abusing parent, and be reluctant to go to a custody hearing. Ultimately, the question to ask is the same as the one the Court will ask… “what is in the best interests of the children?”
If there is substance abuse in your family, if one or both parties are in denial, consider the effects this may have on your children. There are resources available to help. If you do not know where to begin, if you are considering whether to continue in a marriage where this is a factor, if you have questions on how substance abuse will affect custody of your children, contact a family lawyer who can help provide information that will assist you in moving toward a healthier lifestyle.