Alcoholism and child custody: Finding a difficult legal balance

Alcoholism is a serious medical condition that can affect the life of an individual, their family, and their entire community. Despite options for treatment and available support groups, not all Colorado residents who are afflicted with alcoholism are able to overcome their situations. When alcohol controls a person’s life, it can be hard for them to prioritize anything else.

It is an unfortunate truth that alcoholism and alcohol abuse can destroy families and the trust that the members expect from each other. When a marriage ends due to alcohol use and abuse, it may be difficult on the parties and their kids. Particularly when an alcoholic wishes to retain their custodial rights over their kids, many serious questions can come up with few easy answers. This post addresses some of the ways that alcoholism and abuse my impact the child custody process for Colorado families.

Prioritizing the best interests of the children

Regardless of whether alcoholism is an issue in a child custody case, courts seek to protect the best interests of the children whose cases appear before them. A child’s best interests are subjective, and parents should be aware that what may serve one child’s needs may not be best for another. However, if a parent cannot perform necessary custodial duties to ensure a child’s health and safety due to alcohol use or abuse, they may not be capable of meeting their child or children’s best interests.

Dividing the legal parental responsibilities of raising kids

Child custody concerns two important areas of responsibility – providing children with a safe and stable home, and providing oversight and decision-making power over how a child is raised. While the former responsibility is often referred to as physical custody, the latter is generally called legal custody.

A parent who cannot care for their kids due to alcoholism may not be capable of having their kids live with them in a physical custody plan. They may, however, be able to retain their rights to have a say in how their children are raised. Depending on their ability to serve their kids’ best interests, they may continue to have the power to be involved in child-rearing decisions after their divorce is finalized.

Addressing criminal behavior and allegations of abuse

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are not synonymous with crime. It is important that readers recognize that alcoholism does not make a person a criminal, but related potential behaviors like drunk driving and others may be crimes. When a person’s drinking causes them to break the law and engage in dangerous or abusive behaviors, that conduct may be held against them during child custody hearings.

There are many factors that courts evaluate when they make decisions about how parents should share custody pursuant to a divorce. Alcoholism is an issue that may be considered with regard to how it impacts a parent’s ability to care for their children. Those who have questions and concerns about how alcohol consumption and abuse may alter their or their former spouses’ parental rights should seek counsel from family law attorneys.