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Can violent or substance-abusing parents get visitation?

As a California parent, you probably make many of your life decisions after considering what is best for your child. When it comes to child custody and visitation, however, the decisions are not always yours. This can prove troubling if you know the other parent is violent, or if you suspect abuse of drugs or alcohol.

If you find yourself in such a situation, you may feel fearful that the parent you believe to be dangerous might receive visitation rights, potentially endangering your child. Your fears may be warranted, too, as decisions on such matters typically are on a case-by-case basis.

Factors the court may consider

If you suspect that your child’s other parent is an alcohol or drug abuser, a judge may require that he or she undergo regular drug testing to see if your concerns are valid. The results of the tests will likely play a role in any decisions regarding visitation, and the judge may also review the other parent’s criminal history for indications of past drug or alcohol problems.

If you know or suspect that your child’s other parent is violent or abusive, your judge will typically weigh whether your child having visitation would truly be in his or her best interest. The same is true in cases of alcohol or drug abuse. In some cases, and particularly in cases where the child is 14 or older, the judge may ask for the child’s opinion and preference regarding visitation with the parent in question.

Top priority is your child's best interest

In closing, there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to issues relating to child visitation by parents who are violent or abusing alcohol or drugs. You can expect, however, that your child’s best interests, and possibly, his or her own preferences, will be among the factors a judge considers in determining whether to award it.

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