Issues with alcohol lead (or at least contribute) to the end of many marriages. When one parent has a serious problem with alcohol, they’re often denied custody of their children in the divorce. Even if they fight their co-parent on the matter, the judge is unlikely to trust them with more than visitation. If there have been instances of abuse or neglect, they may be granted only supervised visitation.
Maybe that was you a few years ago. But now you’re in recovery, and your life is back on track. You should be able to get shared custody of your children, right?
It’s not that easy – but it’s possible. Parents who are recovering alcoholics can get their custody agreement modified. You just need to have some patience and work to prove that you can be trusted to care for your children. How do you do that?
What you’ll need to show a judge
It helps if your co-parent and your children are supportive of increased parenting time. However, whether they are or not, it’s a family court judge you’ll have to convince. They look at things like:
- Whether you accept that you have a problem with alcohol
- How long you’ve been sober
- Whether you’re in a recovery program and what kind
- If you have a strong support system around you to help you stay sober
- Whether your drinking ever harmed your children or put them at risk – emotionally and/or physically
Typically, the longer you’ve been sober and the more your life has changed for the better, the more likely you are to gain greater parenting rights. There’s no magic timeframe. A judge will look at the totality of your journey.
You can’t just get out of a 90-day rehab program – no matter how intense it might have been — and expect to get shared custody. However, if you’ve maintained your sobriety for at least a few years and continue to participate in a recovery program like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or to get therapy, you’re proving your commitment to sobriety. Another way to help get more access to your kids is to agree to an alcohol monitoring system.
Even if you don’t get exactly what you want at first, by staying sober and continuing to be the best parent you can, you improve your chances of getting the parenting rights you’re seeking. With experienced legal guidance, you can build a compelling custody case.