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During a divorce in Massachusetts, one parent may become concerned about the other parent’s behavior around the child. In some cases, it could endanger the child’s safety. This was the case with one father who was worried about his wife’s drinking when they separated prior to filing for divorce. His main concern was that she would drink and drive with their 7-year-old son.

However, there were additional issues. He had been the child’s main caregiver throughout his life, but his wife had the child and had cut off contact. She said that she wanted to wait a few months to file for divorce so that she could get video of herself caring for the child.

A parent may be able to get emergency custody if the child is in danger with the other parent. However, this can be difficult if there is not documentation, such as a police report, to prove that the parent has a problem with alcohol or drugs. For example, in one case, a woman was unable to prevent her husband from seeing their children even though he drank nightly. The court ruled that there was not proof that he did so when he was with his children. Parents who do anticipate a custody battle should document everything. A court may require a parent who does have substance abuse problems to undergo testing.

Parents may prefer to negotiate child custody and visitation outside of court. This can leave them more in control of the final outcome, but it requires cooperation from both of them. If a case does go to court, one thing a judge may consider is who has been the child’s main caregiver. In a case like the one in which the man was worried about his wife’s drinking, a parent might want to gather evidence of their caregiving up to the point of the separation.