If a parent has been absent for 4 years of a child's life can visitation be granted to that person despite his drug abuse and criminal history?

This is certainly a difficult question and it's obvious you are very concerned about the child and well you should be.

If the father has cleaned up his act (for sure) and made a valiant effort in doing so, then you can (only if you want) introduce your child to his/her father. It is recommended that all visitations are supervised by you or someone else that the courts deem.

If you just want to get on with your life and leave the father behind because he is more trouble than he's worth, then please seek out legal counsel and go through the proper court system to get sole custody. Since the father of your child has a prison record and known to be into drugs you have a great chance of getting what you want.

Good luck Marcy

Sorry, but sole custody does not repeal a biological parent's is visitation privileges. The court treats these type of situations on an individual basis. Obviously if the father was incarcerated he could not visit, but he could still have kept in communication with the child/children. It is very likely that he would be granted visitation (supervised if circumstances warranted) courts are adamant about parents being afforded their parental rights in accordance with state laws. Of course along with those rights comes the obligation of child support and in most cases adequate medical coverage.

Answer also: Best thing you can do is contact your local Women's Right Center and Social Services. They can outline the process and give you literature on how to proceed. If you do not have legal representation and cannot afford it, that can be provided for you as well. Best to you.