Pennsylvania Family Law and Divorce
Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C.

Will a Prior Drug Addiction Prevent Me From Having Custody in Pennsylvania?

We have all heard the headlines, the heroin epidemic in Western Pennsylvania is getting more and more severe. Most people are in agreement that a parent who is in the active stages of addiction should not be allowed to exercise unsupervised custody. However, many people are lucky enough to recover from their addiction through the help of rehabilitation and therapy. These circumstances lead to many significant questions. If someone's custody was suspended during their addiction or rehabilitation, when or how should it be reinstated? How do you plan in advance for a possible relapse? How supportive should you be of someone's recovery while still being aware that relapse is possible? How do you discuss these issues with the children?

Unfortunately, more and more parents and custodians in Pennsylvania and across the county are faced with these questions everyday. Although a former drug abuse problem will not in and of itself foreclose a parent's ability to exercise custody of his or her child in the future, an active drug problem or the threat of the same will likely cause some problems.

Often courts in Western Pennsylvania will establish safeguards to prevent children and recovering addicts from following through the cracks. Some of these safeguards include IMPACT evaluations in Allegheny County. In this program, parents or custodians in cases where there are allegations of drug use will undergo an interview process as well as a drug screen. The IMPACT staff will then make recommendations to the court about what services they believe may benefit the individual. Often compliance with these recommendations is mandatory. Many times, if someone has a history of addiction, the court will subject them to weekly random drug screens ore require both parties to take a drug test every time they come to court. A word of warning on that end; however, often judges (especially in Allegheny County), believe that what is good for the goose is good for the gander and will expect both parties to show up to take a drug test, those parties too must be prepared to face a drug screen and/or allegations that they also use drugs. As noted above, a drug problem in the past will not prevent you from exercising custody of your children. However, a current or ongoing drug addiction may.

If you have any more questions about how a previous drug addiction may impact your custody case in Western Pennsylvania, contact our Pittsburgh office today!

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