Co-Parenting When Alcohol Abuse is Involved

Father co-parenting his son when alcohol abuse is involved
April 22, 2018
|   updated:
July 11, 2023

It could be the primary reason behind the divorce.  Or it could be how your former spouse has decided to cope with the separation.  Either way, co-parenting with someone struggling with alcoholism might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do.  But even when you accept that your husband or wife has a problem, you still have real concerns for the safety of your children when they’re with them.

Be an Active Part of the Solution

Ignoring your ex-partner’s substance abuse is not helpful for their long-term recovery or for your co-parenting relationship.  Instead, it’s important to address it in a kind, compassionate manner while still being firm that alcohol abuse is unacceptable.

If the other parent is making a good-faith effort at sobriety, then some guidelines might contribute toward their success.  For example, create a written contract together which includes specific pick up or drop off times, rules for behavior while around the children, and check-in requirements.  You should include in the requests that they must not consume any alcohol during parenting time.  One way to enforce this rule is using Soberlink Alcohol Monitoring.  It’s a great way to discreetly monitor sobriety while your children are with your former spouse.

Unfortunately, if one parent is totally irresponsible or consistently demonstrates out of control behavior, then custody arrangements should be re-evaluated by the parties and the court.  Only when someone struggling with alcoholism has exhibited healthy decision-making and has made progress toward a sober lifestyle can supervised visits or co-parenting occur.

Utilize a Parenting Coordinator

A professional parenting coordinator is another option to help parents cope with alcohol abuse and its effects on the family, all while facilitating parenting time.  Typically, in less than amicable divorces, a parenting coordinator works with separated parents to establish consistent rules and routines for the family during and after the divorce and to assist the parties in resolving parenting disputes and disagreements.  When alcohol abuse is an issue, the parenting coordinator may also take on the role of a neutral third party who is unbiased in their assessment of a potentially dangerous or unhealthy situation for the children.  Some parents may agree for the parenting coordinator to have the ability to change arrangements to avoid unsafe circumstances for the children.

Encourage Counseling

During the course of divorce proceedings and after, encourage your former partner to seek chemical-dependency counseling and stick to it.  This professional should complete an independent assessment of the parent’s alcohol abuse to determine a plan for recovery, and if a licensed physician, determine whether medication will be beneficial.  Adherence to scheduled counseling appointments can and should be a prerequisite to parenting time.

Acknowledge Small Victories

The recovery process can take a lot of time and work for both parents and children.  Little ones, in particular, need reassurance that a parent can be relied upon to be responsible when it comes to caring for them.  Even acknowledging the smallest demonstration in your spouse can make a difference, such as being on time to pick up a child from a friend’s house or prompt and regular attendance at a sports or school events.  Noticing the little things over time can help someone struggling with alcoholism maintain their sobriety.

Continued Education

Above all, remember that knowledge is power.  You’ll need to continue to educate yourself about alcohol abuse, both the physical and psychological aspects of the condition, through online resources, books, and support groups.  There is a wealth of resources of available that address the systemic effects of the disease and numerous self-help publications with real-world, practical guidance.  Invest in learning to how to co-parent when alcohol abuse is involved.  It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your children.

About the Author

Kristina Kiik practices corporate law and counsels small business owners in Texas. She may be reached at

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