What to do if my son is not being properly taken care of during visitation with his father?

My son visits his father in the summer time for 6 weeks; 2 summers ago my son called from inside a closet crying that his dad was drunk and he was worried about him. Once he got back home he told me that his dad drank a lot and there was a time that he had to get in a car with someone that had been drinking and driving. This past summer my son told me that there was not room for him in his SUV that he was told to lay in the back in the cargo area. He had no seat and no seat belt to secure him. I do not know what to do or the steps I need to take. I am worried about my son’s safety. We have a parenting plan in place and a child support order but that is it and we were never married. What do I need to do to keep him safe?

Asked on September 9, 2012 under Family Law, Washington


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

There are a couple of things that you can do now to help the situation.  First, everytime your son calls and tells you he's in danger or has been exposed to a dangerous situation, then you need to call children's protective services.  Here is a website that can get you started:   http://www.dshs.wa.gov/ca/general/index.asp.              If you do nothing, then it will look like you are fabricating a complaint if you try to raise the issue later.  Even though your son's statements have a bit of age on them, you may still want to go ahead and file the complaint if he has regular visits with dad.

Your second option is to file a motion to modify or change the custody order and parenting plan.  You need to request supervised visits or restricted visits.  You may also request the order to require dad to attend certain types of counseling (parenting, alcohol, etc.).... anything that will help him be a better dad.  This seems like an odd request, but you will get some mileage with a court and they will listen to you better if your focus isn't just "ripping kid away from dad," but it's trying to make the relationship work better and more safely for the child through counseling and supervision.

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