When courts are called on to make decisions regarding child custody, the overriding consideration is what’s in the best interests of the child. Ideally, both parents are able to have some kind of relationship with their children, even if one parent gets primary custody and the other only has visitation privileges. In cases where neither parent is physically and/or emotionally equipped to safely care for a child, a court may award guardianship to a third party, such as a grandparent.
Often, people assume that if a parent has a substance abuse problem such as alcoholism, they can’t be awarded custody or even visitation rights. However, that’s not necessarily the case. If the parents can’t agree on custody and a judge has to decide, they will generally consider how that parent has behaved around their children and if they’ve done anything to threaten their children’s safety or well-being.
If you believe that your co-parent’s drinking is placing your children at risk, you’ll need to convince the court of that. This is true whether you’re seeking custody as you go through a divorce or you believe that your co-parent’s drinking has become a greater problem since the original custody order was put in place.
If you’re the parent who is facing a potential loss of custody or visitation rights because of your drinking, you can work to show the court and your co-parent that you can be trusted to properly care for your kids when they’re with you. That’s typically an easier task if you haven’t done anything to harm your children or been abusive to them.
Recognizing your problem and seeking treatment are important first steps. Some parents agree to use a remote alcohol monitoring tool. This tool, which is similar to a Breathalyzer, lets people prove that they have no alcohol in their system. Results can be transmitted to the court, the co-parent and/or other designated parties. Some people agree to daily monitoring. Others use the monitoring system only around their parenting times.
Whether you’re the parent with alcohol issues or your co-parent is, it’s important to understand how alcoholism and other substance abuse issues are factored into custody and parenting time decisions by courts. Your attorney can answer your questions and help you work to seek the parenting arrangement you believe is best for your kids.