Alcoholism plays a role in the break-up of many marriages. In most cases, the alcoholic parent is denied any custody rights and allowed limited visitation, usually only if it’s supervised. That’s often the case if the parent has been abusive or neglectful.
If that was you, but you’ve been sober for a while, that custody order doesn’t have to define your relationship with your kids until they’re grown. However, it’s crucial to understand that obtaining greater visitation and custody rights isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a process – and sometimes a long one.
What you’ll need to prove
It’s not enough that you’re fully committed to your sobriety. You will need to prove it – to the court, your co-parent and any social services agency that may be involved. Typically, a family court judge will want to know the following:
- That you acknowledge you have a problem with alcohol
- How long you’ve been sober
- What kind of recovery program you’ve been in and/or continue to be in
- Whether you ever endangered your children’s safety or well-being
Every situation is different, and no two judges see things the same way. However, typically, the longer you’ve been sober, the better your chances are of reclaiming your parenting rights. It’s generally best if you’re continuing in some kind of 12-step program and/or getting therapy. If people can testify to your commitment to remaining sober and to your children, that can make a big difference.
It’s never too early to start strategizing for increased custody
Keep in mind that a condition of obtaining greater custody may be agreeing to participate in an alcohol monitoring program. This can help reassure everyone – including your co-parent and your children – that you’re remaining sober.
Even if it’s too early in your sobriety to seek a custody modification, it’s never too early to take steps toward having a strong case for this modification eventually. With experienced legal guidance, you can determine what you need to do to improve your chances.