How Will Alcoholism Affect My Custody Case?

A father hugging his son
November 14, 2017
|   updated:
July 11, 2023

Child custody cases are contentious affairs almost by default; it’s simply the nature of the beast. However, an already difficult custody case can quickly become a very difficult situation when the specter of alcohol abuse rears its head.

In child custody cases, knowledge is power: there are discernible trends in the impact of alcoholism on child custody cases. Simply understanding these trends can make your custody case a much less frightening ordeal.


Trends that Affect a Custody Case


Law professional shaking hands with client

1. Failure of The Parent to Recognize Their Alcohol Abuse

Judges tend to be particularly concerned with behaviors related to alcohol abuse that remain unacknowledged by the parent. The rationale is simple: admitting to the problem is the first step toward recovery, and a parent who abuses alcohol and won’t acknowledge their condition can’t be reasonably expected to begin making progress toward the recovery that’s so crucial for their child’s well-being. Ways that a parent can show that they are taking steps toward their recovery include participating in addiction treatment programs or remote alcohol monitoring systems. If a parent is involved in a case where the abuse is hearsay and not true, remote monitoring may be a great option to prove sobriety as well.

2. Recent Substance Abuse Can be a Deal-Breaker

For obvious reasons, judges are hesitant to award custody to a parent who may be in the middle of a downward spiral of addictive behaviors. In many divorce proceedings, the addictions of one parent were a key factor in the separation; if that behavior is still fresh in the rear-view mirror, it’s reasonable to assume that a judge will exercise an abundance of caution before placing a child in a potentially dangerous situation. However, it is important to remember that the Judge is looking out for the best interests of the child, which means allowing the child to have a relationship with both parents when possible. Custody can be especially difficult to acquire in cases where alcohol was a contributing factor to events like domestic violence, impaired driving, or child endangerment, but if a parent can show proof that the child is safe, they may be able to keep custody of the child.

3. Newly-Sober Parents May Need to Prove Their Sobriety

It’s admirable, honorable, and prudent to seek sobriety; in the long run, you’re going to be a much better parent when you’re living a sober lifestyle. But be patient; in the short term, judges are likely to balk at awarding full custodial rights to a parent in the early stages of their sobriety, simply because the normal stresses of parenting can be a contributing factor toward relapse. Relapse is normal and a part of recovery. Don’t get discouraged if your efforts toward sobriety fail to immediately sway the court; it’s common for judges to look for extended sobriety before entertaining a change in custodial rights. During early recovery, being able to prove sobriety with a tool like Soberlink’s remote alcohol monitoring system may help to give peace of mind to the court and your ex-spouse that the children are safe.

4. Alcohol Abuse Doesn’t Mean All is Lost

In fact, parents whose alcohol abuse is in the rear-view mirror aren’t likely to see it negatively impact their custodial rights; even if a spouse proves that past behavior occurred, a long-term period of sobriety will typically outweigh any periodic bouts of alcohol abuse, especially if they occurred before the birth of the children or if there’s no proof that the children were ever negatively impacted by their parent’s drinking.

In short, unless your drinking can be proven to present an immediate danger to the health or well-being of the children, it’s unlikely to impact the custody decision.

5. Soberlink Can Assist in Child Custody Cases

Soberlink is a remote alcohol monitoring device that is trusted by hundreds of judges, attorneys, and clients across the county. With Soberlink, a parent can test anywhere at any time to document their sobriety and present their results as proof of sobriety in child custody cases. Real-time results from the Soberlink system mean that the child’s safety is ensured, allowing the parent to continue to have custody of the child, even with allegations or a history of alcohol abuse.

Read more information about custody and alcohol or call (714) 975-7200 to learn more about using Soberlink for alcohol monitoring in Family Law cases.

Learn More About Soberlink

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.