Facing a divorce is never easy, but when there are minor children involved, it becomes a very emotional process. No matter how you feel about your spouse, you love your children deeply. You likely want to have a close relationship with them as they continue to grow.
If you and your ex can't agree on how to split custody, you may feel like you need to ask the courts to set up a parenting plan that will work for you. It's important to realize that every case is unique.
You should not base your actions or plans on stories you've heard from other people who have divorced in Pennsylvania. One common factor that can complicate child custody proceedings is a dependence on alcohol or other drugs. You need to familiarize yourself with how the courts generally handle child custody.
The Pennsylvania courts are trying to do the best they can for your children.
Unlike the Asset Division process, which aims to be fair to both spouses, the primary focus of child custody proceedings is on what is best for the children. Pennsylvania family courts will always focus on the best interest of the children over the desires of the parents.
In most cases, the courts recognize that protecting relationships with both parents is what the children will benefit from the most. However, there are certain situations in which the courts may allocate primary custody to one parent and relegate the other to visitation only.
Substance abuse and addiction are among the factors that can sway the courts toward a less even split of child custody and parental authority. Other factors could include erratic behavior in court or denigrating the other parent to the children.
A documented history of substance abuse is a source of concern for the courts
Whether you are the one who routinely drinks or your spouse has an alcohol problem, it is likely that the courts will want to know about that situation. It could have an impact on how they allocate parental rights and responsibilities in the parenting plan.
If you have already completed treatment for your problem and are no longer actively abusing any substances, the courts me simply require that you commit to your recovery fully. If there is a current or ongoing issue, the courts may limit you're right to see the children. The good news is, no matter what happens, you always have the right to seek a modification of the child custody agreement after the fact.
If your substance abuse has gotten worse because of the stress of the divorce, you can take the time you need to recover and focus on conquering your addiction. Documentation from therapist and substance abuse counseling programs, as well as in patient rehab programs, can help you show the courts that you have confronted the issue and are committed to doing right by your children.
For those concerned about an addicted ex, any documentation, including receipts for alcohol purchases, records of drunk driving infractions or other official records can help ensure your children remain safe during and after the divorce.