How a History of Alcoholism Impacts San Diego Child Custody Cases
This is the next post in my series discussing how past behaviors may or may not negatively impact a San Diego, California child custody case. My last post served as a general overview of topics to come. In this article I will be discussing when a person’s alcoholism can negatively impact child custody and when it will not.
A recent history of alcohol abuse may lead a Family Court Judge to not award joint child custody
Alcoholism is most likely to impact child custody when a person’s drinking has either not been acknowledged, has been out of control in recent months, or when a person’s sobriety is new. If alcohol abuse was one of the deciding factors in a divorce then it is not uncommon for the parent asking for a divorce to also ask for primary custody. Behaviors that harm a person’s case include a pattern of poor judgment with regards to children; driving while intoxicated while children are in the car, drinking heavily at home while supervising children, displaying violent tendencies while drunk, etc. Parents who argue that the other parent’s drinking is out of control will have a good case for primary custody if they can prove an inability to stop drinking while the children are present.
Seeking treatment for alcohol addiction can ultimately help a parent win joint custody in the long-run but it may take time for a Judge to award custody. If a parent has been sober for a brief period of time- often less than a year- a Judge may award the other parent primary custody until the alcoholic parent can establish a serious commitment to sobriety. The reason for this being that raising children is stressful. A judge, therefore, will often want a parent to experience a wide range of normal daily stressors, and prove that they can remain sober, prior to putting children in their care. For parents who have a long history of alcohol abuse, marked by short and superficial attempts at sobriety, a Judge will likely want to see a long-term period of sobriety before changing the custody order.
Sober parents who have been in recovery long-term are unlikely to see custody affected
A person’s struggle with alcoholism is very individualized and can look very different from person to person. While a parent who has openly abused alcohol in the presence of children may see their child custody affected, a parent who has been sober for a long period likely will not. While no alcoholic is ever “cured” a Judge is unlikely to take custody away from a parent with a background of alcoholism who has a well proven commitment to sobriety. A parent’s history of alcoholism is less likely to negatively impact custody if it occurred prior to the birth of the children, if the children have never been exposed of endangered by the parent’s drinking, or if a significant amount of time has passed since alcohol was a problem. In these situations a Judge would automatically assume joint custody is the preferred custody arrangement. For the other parent to ask for primary custody they would need to present compelling evidence that the alcoholic parent’s drinking is a current problem and presents a danger to the children.
If you have a history of alcohol abuse and are concerned about how it may impact your custody case, it is important to consult with a San Diego family law attorney right away. Call today to schedule your appointment.