For many people, alcohol is an ever-present substance in their lives. From after-work drinks to power lunches to backyard BBQs to wine with dinner, alcohol is, for all intents and purposes, “normalized.” However, despite that, alcohol is still a major contributing factor in many American divorces. This is in large part due to the fact that alcohol, especially when a person drinks in excess, brings out the worst in people, causes unnecessary tension and almost always results in poor decision-making. If your alcohol use is a major contributing cause of your divorce, you may wonder how it will affect the child custody outcomes.
According to FindLaw, the overriding factor in all child custody cases is the best interest of the child. This means your family law judge will make custody determinations based on what your child’s happiness, mental health, physical well-being, security and emotional development. The judge will consider several factors when making this determination, one of which is whether you or the other parent live with a drug or alcohol abuse problem.
Even if evidence reveals an alcoholism diagnosis, the judge will not automatically deny you custody or visitation rights. A drink here or there is not indicative of bad parenting. Moreover, if you can show you have a long history of sobriety and responsibility, the judge may decide you are just as capable of caring for your child as the non-alcoholic parent.
That said, if evidence reveals that your drinking interferes with your ability to make sound decisions on the child’s behalf, the parent-child relationship or your ability to parent your child, the judge may determine you are “unfit” to parent. An unfit determination often results in loss of or denial of custody. Unfit determinations, however, typically follow extended periods of incapacity due to alcohol use or major adverse events related to alcohol use, such as domestic violence or a car crash.