Alcohol abuse issues cause, or least contribute to, the end of many marriages. Typically, the parent with the alcohol problem is given only limited – if any – access to their child in the divorce. The court’s priority has to be the safety and well-being of the child.
Many parents struggling with alcoholism are able to have only limited, closely supervised visitation with their children. That’s particularly true if there’s been any kind of neglect or abuse.
So what happens when a parent gets sober? Do they immediately gain greater parenting time and even shared custody? Just as recovery is a process, so is gaining parenting rights after you’ve lost them. Courts (and co-parents) have to be convinced that a person is indeed committed to their sobriety and to becoming the kind of parent their child needs.
What does a parent in recovery have to prove?
When a parent is seeking greater access to their child, they’ll need to show the court:
- They know they have a problem with alcohol
- They have been sober for some time (and not fresh out of rehab)
- What their recovery involves (Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, regular therapy and so forth)
- They are not a danger to their child’s emotional or physical well-being
Every case is unique. However, typically, a judge and perhaps a social services professional will look at the totality of what kind of behavior occurred in the past and the likelihood that it will reoccur. A judge may want to hear from friends and professionals who can attest to the progress.
Parenting rights will likely be restored incrementally – perhaps starting with some short unsupervised visitations and eventually shared custody. It can be a frustrating process.
However, the more you focus on staying sober and being a good parent during the limited access you have while cooperating with the court and your co-parent, the sooner you can expect to have your rights expanded. Having experienced legal guidance can help.