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When another parent abuses drugs or alcohol

Maryland parents who are divorced might wonder what they can do to ensure that their child is safe if the other parent is abusing alcohol, prescription drugs or illegal drugs. A judge who has jurisdiction over child custody and who receives a report from one parent about such behavior might begin by investigating those allegations.

The court is concerned with the best interests of the child, so its focus will be on whether the parent's drug or alcohol abuse interferes with the ability to care for the child. The judge may also consider any past history of substance abuse.

If the parents already have a custody and visitation order or agreement and one parent is abusing alcohol or drugs, courts may learn about it either when it is reported to them or when someone reports it to social services. Parents who want to raise such a concern should document the abuse with any police reports or other relevant material. They should also be prepared to demonstrate that the child is unsafe as a result. A parent might refuse visitation or take out a restraining order to protect the child. A judge might change custody and support orders to allow the parent who has been found to be a substance abuser supervised visitation only.

There are other types of issues that could result in needing a change in custody and visitation as well. For example, one parent might need to move some distance away because of a job. If this happens, the judge may need to approve the relocation and revise custody orders. If the change needed is temporary, parents might be able to work this out between themselves with the help of their respective lawyers rather than going back to court.

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