If you’re a divorcing or divorced parent who has struggled with alcohol, you may believe that your chances of being granted shared child custody or even unsupervised visitation are slim to none. That’s not necessarily true. Whether you and your co-parent are determining custody as you divorce or you’re considering seeking a modification of the child custody order months or years later, it’s important to know how your history with alcohol will impact your case.
Judges who are deciding custody cases need to consider the safety and well-being of the children above all else. Therefore, if your alcohol-fueled behavior has resulted in drunk driving, domestic violence or neglect or endangerment of your children, a judge won’t likely be inclined to let you have unsupervised access to them — particularly if that behavior was recent.
If you’ve recognized that you have a problem with alcohol and have gotten sober, that’s a big step in the right direction. An alcoholic parent who doesn’t acknowledge their dependence and the problems caused by it is more likely to endanger their children than one who has sought help.
What if you’ve stopped drinking, joined a 12-step group and/or completed a rehabilitation program? That’s all great. It will certainly help make you a better parent. However, a judge will likely want to see that you’ve been sober for an extended period before increasing your custodial rights. If you haven’t spent much time with your kids during your newfound sobriety, a judge may be concerned that the stresses inherent in parenting will cause a relapse that could harm the kids.
In most cases, your best course of action is to remain committed to your sobriety and be patient. By rebuilding your kids’ trust and that of your co-parent, you’ll likely help things go in your favor with the court. Your Tennessee family law attorney can provide valuable advice as you work to become an integral part of your kids’ lives once again.