Divorcing when you have children is difficult. Splitting time with them, determining child support, and attempting to co-parent with someone you may no longer get along with very well are all struggles. Adding an alcoholic parent and child custody can make concerns over the child’s well-being and the parent’s rights and obligations a much bigger, and more complicated, part of divorce. You may not feel safe when your child is with your ex. Divorced parents of alcoholic former spouses may want to limit their children’s time with the other parent, or demand tests that prove the ex is sober during their parenting time. Can you do either of those things? How does being an alcoholic affect child custody in Colorado? If you are concerned about your child’s safety with your former spouse in the Littleton or Denver Metro areas, consider calling the knowledgeable family law attorneys with Colorado Divorce Law Group at (720) 593-6442 to discuss your legal options.
In Colorado, as in many other states, custody is determined based on the best interests of the child or children. This means that alcoholism can prevent a parent from receiving parenting time or decision-making responsibility. The court may not cut off all contact between the alcoholic parent and the children, however.
The court may decide to order supervised visits, random drug or alcohol testing, or mandatory counseling or rehabilitation. The requirements imposed by the court will likely depend on how severe the parent’s alcoholism is, whether they are trying or have tried to stop drinking in the past and whether they have previously put the child in danger as a result of their drinking, among other factors.
Proving alcohol abuse may be easy if the person admits to having a problem. Many people with substance abuse disorders are reluctant to make this admission, even under the best of circumstances, so concerned parents may need to get a little more creative to prove that their former spouse is an alcoholic.
Witness testimony can be powerful evidence when dealing with an alcoholic parent and child custody. Parents should try to avoid using their own family members, as they could be considered biased. Instead, try to find mutual friends, work colleagues, or others who are unbiased and can confirm the other parent’s drinking habits. Work colleagues can be particularly persuasive because if the person frequently arrives at work already intoxicated, or engages in drinking while at work, these can be strong indicators of alcoholism.
If the person has a history of DUI arrests or convictions, this can be used as evidence of alcoholism. Criminal records such as these are part of the public record, so it should be easy to find the relevant documents and submit them to family court. Presenting police records can be extremely effective when the history includes more than one arrest or conviction.
Alcoholism can eventually result in serious health conditions such as cardiovascular problems, cirrhosis of the liver (liver disease), high blood pressure, stroke, and a variety of cancers, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some of these health conditions can also occur without alcoholism, so medical records alone may not be enough to stand as proof. If you are able to get them, Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to help you determine whether they can be used as evidence on their own, as well as strategize what other types of evidence you mind need.
Credit card statements and other bank records that show frequent purchases of large quantities of alcohol can be strong evidence of alcoholism, particularly if those purchases occur daily. Additionally, parents should look at the statements to see if the purchases are taking place at the same locations. If so, they may also be able to get a liquor store clerk or bartender to testify as a witness to the other parent’s frequent purchases.
Sometimes people who are heavily intoxicated will call and leave an incoherent voicemail. They may also send equally incoherent text messages. Either of these, if they have been saved, may potentially be submitted to the court as evidence. Voicemails may sometimes be more effective, as the judge will likely be able to hear the intoxication in the slurred speech. The other parent may try to argue that text messages were garbled by the phone, or offer another excuse that, whether provable or not, may cause the judge to have plausible doubt.
If someone believes they are dealing with an alcoholic parent and child custody, they can request their ex undergo testing. This request can put the other parent on the defensive because if they say no, it raises questions about why. If they agree to testing, it will either prove they have been drinking or they have not been drinking. Testing options can include hair follicle testing and ethyl glucuronide (EtG) Tests. According to the National Library of Medicine, EtG testing is most effective at identifying heavy drinking within the few days leading up to the test. American Addiction Centers indicates that hair follicle tests can show alcohol use within the last 90 days.
However, it is important to be aware that these tests may not definitively prove the other parent is an alcoholic. They may only indicate that the person has been drinking, which the judge may not see as an issue if it does not appear to indicate excessive drinking.
Children who have an alcoholic parent often experience numerous cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and psychosocial consequences, some of which may persist into adulthood. Many of these children are regularly exposed to substantial instability in their home life, daily and weekly routines, and interpersonal relationships with their alcoholic parents. As children, they may experience anxiety, depression, antisocial behavior, relationship troubles, and behavioral issues. In addition, children of alcoholic parents are four times more likely to become an alcoholic themselves, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
As adults, children of alcoholic parents may have characteristics such as:
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) characterizes heavy drinking as four drinks per day or more than 14 per week for men and three drinks per day or more than seven per week for women. Binge drinking, on the other hand, refers to a pattern of drinking in which the individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is sporadically elevated to 0.08% or higher. This typically looks like five drinks for men or four drinks for women in a two-hour period.
Other indications of alcoholism could include:
There may be nothing more terrifying for a parent than the thought of letting their child be with someone who may put the child in danger. When dealing with an alcoholic parent and child custody, the best interests of the child must come first. This includes their physical and emotional safety. If you believe that your former spouse may struggle with alcohol abuse and want to limit their parenting time in the Northern Colorado and Mountain Counties area, Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to help. You may call (720) 593-6442 to schedule a consultation to learn more about your legal rights.