Visitation and the alcoholic parent

Posted Friday, April 24th, 2009 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Law and Culture, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to General Public, Visitation

If we accept that alcoholism is a disease (which I do), the cure is simple: don’t consume alcohol. I have happily represented many outstanding recovering alcoholic parents in family court and some of these parents have obtained custody of their children and done a fantastic job raising them. Note the word “recovering” alcoholics. The alcoholic parents whose representation I considered to be successful were in recovery and were committed to not drinking.

In too many cases I have observed alcoholic parents who were not in recovery destroy their custody case (and their relationship with their children) by continuing to drink. I cannot say that every parent I have dealt with who had a history of alcohol abuse and continued to drink destroyed their case but I believe this may be due, in part, to the fact that I only observe such parents for a period of a few months to a few years and they will be parents of minor children for 18+ years. I suspect if I followed them throughout their child(ren)’s minority, eventually their alcohol use would result in an action or behavior that would undermine their relationship with their children.

A common concern in custody and visitation cases in which one parent is an alcoholic is what to do about that parent’s visitation and how to monitor problems that may arise due to that parent’s use of alcohol. It is grossly unfair to require the other parent to monitor the alcoholic parent’s drinking: often that parent has spent years in an enabling relationship with the alcoholic parent and has turned to the family court so as to stop further enmeshment in the alcoholic parent’s drinking. Yet visitation orders that simply prohibit the alcoholic parent from drinking around the child (or when they have the child, or within twenty-four hours of a visit) simply continue this entanglement: the other parent must continuously monitor the alcoholic parent’s drinking. The typical result is frequent trips to the family court where the parents argue over whether the alcoholic parent was drinking or when the alcoholic parent was drinking. Since such determinations ride on credibility determinations, and since credibility determinations often require lots of witnesses and lots of cross-examination of these witnesses to test credibility, these hearings require substantial docket time and the court is often loath to devote substantial docket time to these issues–especially when the same issue (alcoholic parent’s drinking) keeps arising. Frequently these cases do not resolve until the alcoholic parent’s drinking becomes well documented through an alcohol-related accident–and we can only hope that the children are not around when this accident occurs.

Sometimes the court puts a little more “teeth” in its order by allowing the other parent to request random alcohol testing of the alcoholic parent. However, so long as the court’s order allows the alcoholic parent to consume alcohol at some times (when the child is not around) but not consume it other times, this does not remove the credibility problems noted above: now the parents are simply fighting over when the alcoholic parent was drinking.

It strikes me that the solution to this problem is both simple and elegant and I wish more family court judges had the courage to implement it: simply require an alcoholic parent who wishes to have visitation with his or her child to stop drinking period. I realize and respect that family court judges are loathe to restrict an adult’s legal activities more than is absolutely required. However, if we are going to treat alcoholism as a medical issue, rather than a moral issue, then I believe such a broad restriction is justified. Only by committing to sobriety can an alcoholic parent be safely around his or her children. Further, it is unfair to require the other parent to monitor the drinking of the alcoholic parent when the alcoholic parent wants a relationship with the child(ren) but is unwilling to commit to sobriety.

If I were a family court judge every alcoholic parent would be given a stark choice: alcohol or your children. If the parent chose alcohol, he or she would not receive court-ordered visitation (I would leave the visitation in the discretion of the other parent and trust that the other parent would allow whatever visitation he or she felt was productive and safe for the children). If the alcoholic parent chose visitation they would be ordered not to drink period. I would allow the other parent to obtain random alcohol testing and one failed test would result in visitation being terminated pending further court order and would result in potential criminal contempt (that is the alcoholic parent would be subject to incarceration for drinking).

While such a choice seems harsh it is actually most reasonable. Almost all non alcoholic parents, given a choice between alcohol and their children, would choose their children; it would not even be a difficult decision. Yet we are unwilling to require alcoholic parents to make this choice. These are the very parents whose history suggests that their being required to make such a decision would lead to greater harmony and family stability. Every case in which I have seen the judge require such a choice resolves rather quickly and leads to stability: either the alcoholic parent chooses alcohol, the alcoholic parent refrains from drinking or the alcoholic parent is caught drinking and visitation stops. The cases in which the court does not require such a choice lead to endless litigation. How much simpler it would be if the family court uniformly implemented this solution.

168 thoughts on Visitation and the alcoholic parent

  1. Patti Maderson says:

    You have made a clear and eloquent statement that echoes what the therapeutic community has been trying to clarify for years about addiction. there is no middle ground and there is always the possiblity of relapse so the unfortunate reality is that the recovering alcoholic/addict is always subject to proving abstinence. If that is what it takes to have a relationship with my children, I say, bring it on! And so would anyone who is sincere in recovery. I continue to be a fan!

  2. P. Behr says:

    So, where does the non-alcoholic parent start in a process to remove the alcholic parent from the home in order to protect the children and sanity of the household? I’m the grandparent of two precious minor children (5 and 7) and wish to make some suggestions to my son as to where he can begin to protect his children from the neglect imposed by the mother. Treatment for the alcoholic parent is a must but impossible in the budget of the parents. It sounds like a lengthy and costly process going through the court system. Any suggestions?

    1. Treatment is NOT expensive!
      12 step programs are free!

      1. Frank D. says:

        I am both in recovery and fighting to have visitation. The bottom line is that recovery is difficult, beautiful and free. I have been to rehabs and out patient programs and all have been greatly beneficial but there is and shall never be a substitute for my daily 12 step meetings which exist all over the world at any hour of the day and are indeed absolutley free. The alcohoic will persue true recovery when they are ready; to do so by any other reason named by another will simply not do. Thus is both the power and fragility of true recovery. God Bless.

  3. Excellent article/opinion/blog. I am going through something similar with my (hopefully) soon-to-be-ex- wife. I cannot seem to disentangle myself from her, however, as every time we get close to finishing mediation she blows it up by drinking and going in to rehab. Can you give me any references for this kind of situation, i.e. – when the alchoholic spouse is a bad-faith mediation participant, who wastes the mediator’s and the non-alcoholic spouse’s time, then hides behind her illness as a way of gaining consideration for the court? Also, I am sure you know of the anklet monitors now out that alcoholics must wear at all times. This seems to have solved the problem you address.

    Thanks for you post.


  4. Angie says:

    I wish you were a family court judge in SE Missouri. I have custody of my nephew. You just told the story of our live. His mother isn’t allowed alcohol 8 hours prior. She can be up drinking all night, stop at 9am and be abiding by the visitation order by 6pm.

  5. Thomas F. McDow says:

    I have two perspectives on this problem. First, I am a recovering alcoholic with twenty-six years of sobriety. Second, my associate Erin U. Fitzpatrick and I seem to specialize in custody cases with alcoholic mothers.

    With one exception, I did not drink while I had physical custody of my children, although I was going through a period of raging alcoholism from January 20, 1978 through December 11, 1983. During that period, I did not stop drinking but I postponed it during visitation.

    It does no good for judges to order a person to attend AA. Alcoholics cannot quit drinking for anyone else. They either quit for themselves or they do not quit. They only quit for themselves when they reach bottom but bottom is different for different alcoholics. One person’s bottom may be a DUI while another person’s bottom may be sleeping on park benches after having lost job, family, friends, and self-respect. I have two definitions for an alcoholic. The first is a person who has a problem that they would not have had but for alcohol. That definition includes almost everyone who drinks. The second is a person who cannot stop drinking without Alcoholics Anonymous.

    In working with alcoholic clients, we make it clear that they are going to lose unless they get sober and are able to demonstrate that they will most proably stay sober. This usually means getting an AA sponsor and going to ninety Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in ninety days and then remaining active in AA by going to meetings, sponsoring other alcholics, participating in group conscience meetings, and the like. I counsel clients that there sobriety is more important than visitation but that if they are sober then the visitation will follow.

    I oppose supervised visitation, whatever the reason for the supervision and regardless of which party I represent. Supervised visitation is no visitation. If a person requires supervision, they should not have visitation.

    In the past when the plaintiff has alleged that my client is alcoholic, I have admitted the allegation, had a guardian ad litem appointed for my client, and successfully sought alimony.

    I apologize for the length of this comment. I should have limited it to one paragraph or expanded it to a book.

    1. Thomas:

      I agree with most of what you say. Note that I did not argue for supervised visitation for alcoholics. I too believe that if someone’s visitation needs to be supervised to protect the child, that person doesn’t need court-ordered visitation.

      However I disagree that almost everyone who drinks meets your first definition of alcoholic (“a person who has a problem that they would not have had but for alcohol”). I am a casual drinker and I know many other people who are casual drinkers who don’t have problems due to alcohol. To me an alcoholic is someone who has either needed medical intervention or had repeated legal problems due to alcohol use, or is unable to control his or her alcohol consumption, or admits that he or she has a drinking problem. I realize this isn’t a perfect definition but it fits most situations well enough.

      1. LLPH says:

        “However I disagree that almost everyone who drinks meets your first definition of alcoholic (“a person who has a problem that they would not have had but for alcohol”). I am a casual drinker and I know many other people who are casual drinkers who don’t have problems due to alcohol.” GF July 2010

        I believe “a person who has a problem that they would not have had but for alcohol” (TFM) refers to dui’s, multiple dui’s, lost jobs, etc. However the individual is able to function and live a proper, fit lifestyle.

        An alcoholic can only be defined by one person – and that’s the person who declares themselves to be an alcoholic. I’ve known alcoholics who have drank 2 beers and will never forget the allergy of the body and obsession of the mind that followed; I’ve known alcoholics who have almost drank themselves to death and luckily came to believe they were powerless.

      2. lori says:

        Dear Mr. Forman, I need HELP on behalf of my minor niece & nephew, who are being raised by my 25yr+ alcoholic, 40yo SINGLE parent. He drinks daily to excess, his mood swings range from child-like behavior to a hostile monster, he hits his children enough “not to leave a bruise”, he drives them while intoxicated, he “parties” on week nights with simlar types, he’s been “passed out” when I arrive unannounced on a Sa/Su am, he has had 2 DUI’s (pre-children) & one with significant head trauma, he remains in complete denial of his genetic sickness. Logically, you’re asking about their mother. She is an alcoholic & drug abuser with 5 prior children being raised by the maternal grandmother & was just released from incarceration (drugs) & “visits” my niece & nephew 2-4x’s. Who protects them? Do they have any rights? The laws for DUI are so stringent; what about children being raised by a Single Parent Alcoholic?

  6. Concerned Parent says:

    I think a better definition for an Alcoholic should be: When a parent’s drinking causes problems that negatively impact other’s in the family; they could be emotional problems for the children such as fear and insecurity; physical or mental abuse of any household members; or to a greater and more public degree brushes with the law. The problem we have today is that well documented drinking problems associated with a parent do not seem to have an impact in “Family” court. Alcoholics will go to great extremes to get a barely passing grade on a drug/alcohol test and “ouila” the non-alcoholic parent is making false allegations – even though there could be many counts of the children living in fear from their alcoholic parent’s drinking. The courts are very good at enabling alcoholics because they are focusing on the rights of the individual versus the rights of the family. I believe this is unfortunately true of many aspects of Family Court. They have lost their focus on the “family” in favor of enabling adversarial battles between the individual parent which has yet more negative impact on the family and children. This is a broken system indeed.

    1. rose says:

      So true! You were lucky enough to have your ex be subject to a sobriety test !! IIinois is a little different in litigation I imagine. First a guardian ad litem is appointed and you feel progress is being made as she engages your children in conversation but then the kids get scared that daddy may hurt them if they tell the truth. They even say that to her. She tells them they can tell her anything without a problem. They tell you she doesn’t have to go to dad’s for visitiation and she isn’t there when the anger excelerates into throwing things and excessive verbal and emotional badgering. They are so used to it they think it is life as normal and it even though it is not ok, they just rather not get involved to stay safe. Of course, they become amnesic when questioned by her and your bill surmounts because they desperately pleaded with you to call to see what can be done. Bravo for your candid and extremely accurate eval of the court system!!! (The exception: my current lawyer cares.)

  7. Remember that just because alcohol is a LEGAL drug, this does not alter it’s ability to, at best, interfere, or at worst, destroy a parents ability to be a parent. From a Toxicology standpoint (i.e.biologically), alcohol is a more damaging drug than some other drugs that are ILLEGAL. The effects of alcohol are often present after, sometimes long after, the drinking has stopped. An acute example many can easily relate to is: Can a parent be an effective parent, even tough having a blood alcohol level of zero, after the parent drank heavily the night before and is suffering from one nasty HANGOVER?

  8. Virginia says:

    I agree with “concerned parent” that the system is broken. I had physical proof that my X was an alcoholic (photos, affidavits from neighbors and friends and my children who were 6 & 7 years old at the time who saw their dad’s drunken behavior while I was working at nights. The judge gave my X joint custody because he did not receive a DUI and he made it to work everyday. My X lied on his “court ordered” counseling regarding his drinking and now I pray everyday that that my children are older & they will not get into the car when their dad has been drinking. The judge told my lawyer that he will give me full custody if my X gets pulled over for DUI….But in the meantime, they are at risk when they are at their father’s residence.

    1. rose says:

      Everyone warned me not to use my divorce lawyer as a therapist and I warn you too that the emotional toll of having an alcoholic ex husband is dehabilitating. People thought my being a stay-at-home-mom and ocassionally having some part-time work was the bomb during my marriage and the courts obviously think so too. Guess again! What no one recognizes is that you want your marriage to thrive and you are dillusional in thinking that this once pleasant person has become a monster because of everyday alcohol consumption. What is not recognized by a court is the ability of someone else’s disease to take you down with it. You are emotionally spent, mentally unhinged from coping in any way you can and keeping this disaeased person away from your kids. Many things cause disease but initially a choice is made with an alcoholic that is not similar to cancers caused by unknowns. They choose to make your life a living hell, leave you sleepless, lose jobs or become “functional” to save their face not yours. Police also could care less to help because of entrapment issues. The system is more than broken and some unscrupulous lawyers give a damn for your children’s mental health insisting you call the police for evidence. It more than stinks! Now my divorce reaching double digit thousands and being “done” for 5 years, still surmounts toward triple digit fees because of his “disease”. Meanwhile he functions, drives the kids drunk, dupes women into believing how wonderful and misunderstood he is and goes on vacations while paying back payments on child support in increments whereas I had to liquidate retirement to survive. Oh yes, somehow he palns vacations and you go nuts hoping to be able to feed, clothe and rent a Redbox for a buck while he enjoys cable and fine restaurants. Oh yes, alcohol is a disease for some but others it is a choice to ruin a family life.

      1. Anja Hollands says:

        I agree with Rose. Alcoholics make your life miserable and tell others they don’t have a problem, you do.

      2. Kelly says:

        You nailed it, Rose. They become “functional” to save their face not yours. I used to live on cloud 9 and then I lived in denial trying to save my face and his… Ive been through my own recovery through Ive never been much of a drinker… its just crazy how they take you with them!

  9. Worried Parent says:

    I am currently married to an alcoholic. He has admitted it and one time quit for about 60 days when I tried the ultimatum. However, I realize that he needs to make the choice. I on the other hand need to make the right choice for my 2 year old. I am afraid to go the divorce route for fear that my child will be allowed unsupervised visitation with my alcoholic ex. My child is not even old enough to know about what is going on. Also, with the economy, being laid off, and not being able to find work I feel completely helpless. I wish I knew how to prepare for the inevitable.

    1. MN says:

      Thank you GSF for the article and all the others for the posts, although they are aged. This is my problem EXACTLY…. except that I am a sober mother and my ex husband is the alcoholic. I have a clause in my divorce decree which states I can demand a urine test whenever I want, and that he cannot drink within 12 hours of seeing the kids. He was sober for 22 months (during the divorce proceedings, of course) but started again when he got fired from a job (that paid him cash, so he could claim no income during divorce proceedings).

      I am healed enough from co-dependency to not want ANYTHING to do with monitoring his drinking; yet with the decree wording, I am the one who must demand the test, and determine when it might or might not be positive.

      My goal is to keep my children safe, and to minimize fighting between their father and myself. He tells them WAY too much and will involve them as soon as I demand urine tests or withold visitation. And my FLIGHT response to stress is super strong so I’ve been ignoring the situation and basically waiting for the disease to consume him. But recently I am feeling like I must DO SOMETHING for these poor kiddos… I am hiring a PI to help with the ‘right time’ to urine test, but it’s expensive. The attorneys say, need evidence, not heresay/ opinions. Which makes sense, but still… it doesn’t sound like even failed urine tests are going to get me very far. And the children need to know their father- firsthand, instead of creating the false image of a wonderful parent which so often happens in the fantasy world of children when the father is never seen.

      Any advice???

  10. Another worried parent says:

    Worried Parent, I feel EXACTLY the same way! And our stories are eerily similar. I, too, wish I knew how to prepare. The fear of what will happen to our small children when alone with their severely alcoholic father scares me into staying. I’ve been a full time mom and unable to find a job… I pray for a way out of this that keeps our children safe.

    1. rose says:

      Prayer is a great way to go but don’t expect courts to be sympathetic to your “choice” to live this long with an alcoholic. Now if this truly acted like a disease people would be applauding you for living and helping your diseased ex. Courts just think you endangered your children willfully. Joint custody will be their choice most likely unless you can prove physical harm – bruises heal and some jerks like my ex, deliberately look for places to inflict pain that no one would see because of your clothes. Once in awhile they slip up and someone asks about the bruise or bruises and you have the just a little problem excuse. Your hopes become dashed for normalcy and after the divorce coping with everyday stuff is climbing Gibraltar. The manipulation techniques alcoholics learn to reel you in in the first place, will continue to ruin your life if you don’t stop talking to him. This is assuming you married for love and this was progressive. Best of luck!!

      1. Beyond Worried Parent says:

        Rose, Worried Parent, and Another Worried Parent,
        I feel like we are quads! I was earning close to six figures when I met my STBX alcoholic. We had a daughter who is a huge gift since I was not supposed to be able to have children. His alcoholism reared its head within four months of marriage. After a year of marriage I was planning to leave when I found out I was pregnant. I stayed and he promised to get help like so many times before. Things were stable for awhile but you know how that goes out the window at some point. Financial issues and a sick child (she came three months early due to stress that I was under) I became a stay-at-home mother to care for “our child”. As far as he was concerned he did everything and provided everything for the entire family and I was virtually a non-issue Nanny. What a disease! It is a mindfreak for anyone who comes near it! After 5 years of mental abuse he accused me of kidnapping our daughter as I ran errands one day (a month after we decided to divorce and still living in the same home). He received temporary joint custody with overnight visitation 2 – 3 times a week. I had photos of hundreds of beer cans. He drank in secret as we stopped sharing the same bedroom and we were simply exposed to the transformed alcoholic. He is a career salesperson and specializes in manipulation for a living. No doubt he is working toward the facade of being parent of the year in public and still drinking behind closed doors. The court system said that after five years of only walking in on him 10 times that “the extent of his drinking was largely unknown.” How do you monitor a drug addicts drugs? Do you have to see them take the drug to know that they are on or using drugs. What about the mental state that the non-alcoholic parent is left in after 5 years of mental abuse. It was a total nightmare living with the manipulation of an alcoholic. I stayed in the marriage as long as I did because the thought of him getting unsupervised visitation was horrific. I pray to GOD for the continued protection of our 3 year old. How will his manipulation impact her? I pray that he does not drink while she is in his presence. As you know, he is still a “dry drunk” even when he is not drinking. I agree the courts focus on the rights of the alcoholic and not of the family. How do we protect our children????????? Who protects us??????

  11. sharon says:

    I am writing on behalf of my grandson who is three years old. His parents (my daughter) are divorced and they have joint custody. He is to have the child Saturday night, Sunday, night, and bring him home on Monday late afternoon. My x son-in-law is a severe alcoholic and smokes weed. Last Monday night he called my daughter to tell her that she would have to come pick up the child because he was too intoxicated to take him home. She has asked him many times to get help for his problem but he refuses and states that “he takes very good care of the child”. My daughter and myself are very worried about the safety of this child. Can she refuse to let him go to his father’s home on the days he is supposed to have him until he agrees to get help and shows proof that this is being done? This scene is destroying my daughter. She does not know what her rights are on this subject, money is definitely a problem. She is living on a shoestring as it is and works extra jobs to make ends meet. Do you have any words of wisdom? She lives in Colorado and I live in Texas.

  12. Mike says:

    I am an admitted alcoholic and a great father that loves his children deeply. My ex wife and I divorced in October 2007 because of her affair with her cocaine dealing ex-boyfriend and my supposed alcoholic behavior that drove her to file. The cocaine dealer lives now with her and my 3 children in the house that I have paid for in lieu of alimony until June 2010.

    I recently had my visitation suspended until a final hearing can be held regarding my “continued” alcoholism and other financial related issues. My best friend, alcohol, allowed me to manage a DUI in late 2009. My Ex wife discovered this and has been driven to see me put in jail ever since. She has built a case and her family has lied in court stating that I was drinking at baseball games and practices etc. and driving with my children while on a suspended license. My “residential time was suspended because I admitted that I had driven my kids to the baseball park this past summer. I had no other choice if I wanted to get them there. My ex-wifes wrath stems from her unhappiness due to the outcome of the divorce and her family’s hatred of her significant other.

    Since October 2010 and really since the summer of 2010, I have turned my life around thanks to AA. This time I got a sponsor and bought the Big Book. I have a great sponsor and am continuing to learn to deal with life on life’s terms. i attended 90 in 90 and continue to go daily. I attended 3 meeting in one day last Saturday.

    My current reality is that I have no rights because I admitted that I am an alcoholic. What steps can I take to continue to prove my sober ways. This is not the end of her crusade to take me down especially since I filed for reduction in child support. I currently log every AA meeting that I attend and have discovered testing for $25 that will determine alcohol in your system for the past 10 days. I work in the banking industry and am considered a great dad by my family, friends and the community.

    I have rarely ever drank around my children. I can count the times on hand in the last 4 years. If I have drank its been in extreme moderation at cookouts or on the water (a beer or two). I am determined to never drink again. I am being sober for me and know that will bring my children back into my life.

    i am rambling but would appreciate any advice.

    1. Mike:

      I don’t know where you live but in South Carolina the courts are generally looking for six months of sobriety before they consider you recovered enough to risk allowing you to be unsupervised with your children. If you lived in South Carolina, I’d recommend you stop consuming any alcohol and work on getting proof of your six months of sobriety. I happily represent recovering alcoholics who have custody of their children. I refuse to assist non recovering alcoholics get visitation (assuming I am aware they are alcoholics).

    2. Jessica says:

      Hi, I would love it if you could call me. My name is Jessica and I am an alcoholic. I have pushed my husband so far. He is losing his mind. We are going to see my counselor tomorrow. He has shut down all access to banks and cell phones. He has told me that he found out quite a bit of interesting information today. He mentioned, cheating and that this is a no fault state. I have not cheated on him. Phone calls to male friends, yes. but only as friends. I am afraid of losing my two beautiful children. Yet, when he verbally torments me, there is my perfect excuse to drink. please give me some advise. and i dont care if he checks my phone. i did not physically or verbally cheat on him.

  13. Mike says:


    Thanks for your quick response. I am 42 and live in the Nashville, TN area. I graduated from the University of TN with a degree in Economics. I am sober and will continue my path in AA. In your experience, will the courts allow your sponsor to testify on your behalf in order to prove your sobriety. is that a good idea considering you have shared all your character flaws with this person? The testing could get expensive ($100 per month) but can detect anything in your system for the past 8 to 10 days. Because of my profession, I do not want to wear the anklet device. Should I offer random alcohol testing or testing prior to visitation (every other week)? What methods are best in your opinion?

    Of course my belief as a loving father is that if I am sober then I should be allowed visitation at my home with supervision for my normal weekends. I realize the courts do not have that confidence in alcoholics and the process will take longer than I would want. For example, I have been waiting for a final hearing to be set for 4 weeks and its still not.

    I have only been allowed 1.5 hours with my children since Dec 30th. I get to speak to them on Monday and Friday evenings on a speaker phone with the Ex and her live in listening. I am a great guy with a disease that I am treating with all my might but no loving father should have to be treated like a dog.

    1. Non Alcoholic Parent says:

      Mike- when you choose to drink, you get the reprocussions of your actions. Unfortunately, they include items that you describe as “being treated like a dog.” Being the other parent, it is no way to live either. We live in constant fear for our child’s safety because of the actions our former spouse display. Your disease is proven to cause notable harm to everyone in it’s path and this is undisputable. I think the measures you have to undertake to see your children are minor to that of which we parents go through dealing with an alcoholic. You sound like you still need to work on your steps of accepting responsiblity for your actions. I wish you well in your attempt at recovery/soberity.

      1. David Alexander says:

        Oh bullshit. I’m sorry but the man is clearly taking responsibility for his addiction
        He should NOT. EVER be subjected to MONITOTRED CONVERSATIONS with his own bio child. With his ex-wife and her live-in INTRUSIVELY listening in. That isn’t just unfair and unjust. It’s EVIL. The man shouldnt be treated like s DOG. I could not agree with him more. And you basically tell him he DESERVES such treatment because he has a history of struggling with alcohol? That is DISCRIMINATION if I ever saw it.

  14. Kit says:

    We’re right in the middle of this now: my ex has been drinking with the kids, and we have a court date if mediation falls through. He wants to use these saliva test strips at pickup time in the morning, but I haven’t been able to find a brand that claims to test for the past 24 hours. Also, I guess there are mouthwashes that can fake the test out. Does anyone know anything about saliva testing as a way to monitor only visitation time?

    And Gregory, thanks for saying it: I should not have to be the one supervising this!

  15. Amy says:


    My ex-husband and I divorced in 2008 due to his alcoholism and verbal/physical abuse. We have 1 daughter who I have physical custody and we both share joint custody. He sees our daughter two times a week for about 15 hours a week. My ex has been arrested 5 times for OUI and has been charged for 2 of them and got 3 dismissed but got charged with driving to endanger. He has supervised visitation and no overnights/vacations.

    He also is required to have random drug/alcohol testing for the next 6 months – court ordered. He has tested positive for alcohol 2 out of the 5 times. He also seeks counseling 2 times a months. He did test positive for cocaine in January 2010.

    He recently took me to court to modify his visitation for overnights and extended vacation time. We now have a pre-trial date coming up. He lives with his parents who enable him and lie about his drinking. I do have his CORI, his his positive alcohol tests results. I need to come up with more evidence on why I do not feel safe for my daughter to have overnights with him. Do you have any suggestions? I am worried the judge could say yes.

  16. krista says:

    In Canada they have hair folicle testing that can trace drug/alcohol intake for the past year (when and how much). I would think that exists in the States.
    Anyone with little ones who see paterns… Get Out Now! I PROMISE it will not stop if you stay there. Go to a friends place, go to a shelter, go to a relatives. It will get clearer. You will see solutions. The faster you see this the better your chances are to make a life for you and your children.
    I think this article is very insightful. Why have the children see a slow pitiful self-destruction of someone they consider an icon when the courts could just end that train wreck and send the alcoholic on a path to recovery/choice/the end?
    If you’ve EVER thought that your Ex dying could solve 99 percent of your problems, then you, my friend are Not alone.
    Sick, Sad and Shameful. but true

    1. Janice says:

      Your last paragraph verified that you are a complete nut. To even mention that the ex would be better off dead shows that you have a murderous heart. Alcoholism doesn’t even come in a distant second to murder. Are you crazy? Many spouses in a divorce case throw the word “alcoholism” around even when the other parent only drinks socially–and is not an alcoholic. There is a tremendous difference. Most of these instances are revenge, control of the non-custodial parent, just plain meanness. Divorced parents should be treated the same way as those still married. Do the courts/law come into homes and tell parents they can’t drink in front of their children? Is alcohol legal to drink if you are 21 years old or older? You are actually talking about prohibition! We have enough government control of our personal lives already–we don’t need them coming into our homes and telling us what we can do concerning a legal product. You need to “get a life” and quit being so vengeful. You could end up in prison for the rest of your life when you start talking about a spouse being better off dead. I feel sorry for you if you are so miserable.

      1. Beyond Worried Parent says:


        You obviously have no clue what it is like to live with an alcoholic. I feel sorry for your ignorance and rudeness to Krista. While she is working on getting a life, perhaps you should get a clue!

        Alcoholics complete murder of the soul and spirit over and over again to their family members and anyone else in their path like a tornado. Of course, if you are an alcoholic, you wouldn’t understand………

      2. Christine says:

        I agree you have very little experience with living with/married to an alcoholic or addict. I thought Krista summed it up very well…

        It’s a horrible position to be with so much destruction.

        Are you possibly projecting or bitter about someone’s filing?

    2. Celia says:

      Hi Krista,
      I have come across these posts (from 2 years ago) and I am identifying with them so though I’d add to discussion. I am married to an alcoholic husband and we have a boy who is almost 3. With my husband it is a dr jekyll mr hyde relationship. He is diagnosed as being bipolar which further adds to the craziness. It is a very difficult situation because I have love for him but the sickness is wearing out my desire the make the relationship work. I have asked him to stop drinking and he has tried several times but always slips back into it. However, he refuses to go to AA. He has repeatedly been verbally abusive during our marriage and tends to try to undermine me at times when I am trying to do something very important for my success. At other times he is funny, charming, intelligent, sane (basically) – the man I thought I was marrying. At those times everything seems fine and our family – the 3 of us are lovely – then alcoholism/bipolar crazy leers its ugly head. He drinks too much and says horrible things.
      I have been thinking of leaving for years but haven’t wanted to give up. I want my son to have a father and I also don’t trust him to keep my child safe if I am not there. He has done things that were major red flags with our child and if I were not there, might have gone very badly for his safety. I currently am only working part time and he has the full time job. I am worried that if we divorced, I would have trouble proving his alcoholism because so much of it only I witness. I can’t support myself and my child on my salary and I have started looking for a full time job so that I can be independent. What a nightmare! What insanity! What a waste of time and energy! What a novel I just wrote!!!

  17. Alicia says:

    If this was a cookie cutter issue, I would agree. However, circumstances vary and can there can be more complicated issues at play that need to be considered before a court order is placed on an alcoholic parent stating that they are court ordered to abstain from alcohol either until the child is 18 years old or permanently.

    I am all for protecting the child and such a court order may be the only alternative or the easiest alternative. However, the alcoholic parent also has privacy rights and should be allowed to live their life outside of a microscope. I have seen the non-alcoholic parent try to impose this type of order strictly out of vengfulness and as an attempt to control the other alcoholic parent and for those reasons only.

    It’s a complicated issue. And there is not one answer that fits all and will make both parties happy. I am in favor of putting a “supervisor” in as a monitor which could be a therapyst and I am for having levels as well. So, perhaps the alcoholic parent has a level one where they abstain from alcohol for some period of time, be subjected to random ETG tests, weekly meetings wtih a sponsor, 90 in 90 and then 5x after, and weekly therapy sessions to establish a basis in AA and sobriety. Then move to another level where perhaps they are given more freedom to hopefully make healthy choices because they recognize that they are the best choices. Only with a free choice will they begin to enjoy sobriety and take charge of their life. Court imposed restrictions does not really address recovery, it forces compliance which are two different things.

  18. pat says:

    what about the parent that drinks, and is being Labled as a “crazy alcoholic” by an ex spouse (who was, BTW a addict/alc)… how do you fight this non-sense, and what do the courts see as too much vs social drinking?

  19. Mel says:

    I find comfort in reading these stories. My husband is an alcoholic and I have enabled him for years by pretending it wasn’t an issue. He recently drank when he was responsible for my 7 year old daughter and that is when it really hit home for me. I am endangering my children by living with him. I struggle with leaving (and him possibly having my children over night). He saves his drinking for after the kids go to bed, so as of yet it hasn’t directly affected them. (although the mood swings after a night of drinking are starting to get worse.) Most days I hate him and what he is doing to our family and I wish I never had to see him again. I am starting to regain control of my life by telling other people that he is an alcoholic (I have spent years trying to hide it) and by committing all of my energy on myself and my children. It is such a struggle because I know my children need their dad in their life, and I have so much resentment towards him that he cares more about the next drink then his own damn kids.

  20. David Kascmar says:

    Hi…I was married for six years and have two children, ages four and five…during that time I rarely consumed alcohol..It was only after my father commited suicide in my home and shorthly thereafter seperated from my wife, is when I started drinking to an alcoholic state…I moved out of state to be around family…I never drank around my kid’s and never put them in harm’s way…During that time out of state I got three dui’s….when I came back to my current state after being away from the kid’s I went to treatment…I am sober eight month’s and do AA…I have been battling to see my kid’s for the past eight month’s…thousands in lawyer fees, etc…I still haven’t seen the kid’s…just recently we all went through mediation…the BEST they can come up with(that their recommending to court) is six month’s of once a week, one hour supervised visits…and then gradually move closer to unsupervised attorney seem’s to think that we can do a little better but we’d have to go back to court, taking month’s and more money and meanwhile still no contact with the kid’s….any advice?

  21. Try it. Make sure that you have qualified, competent, and attractive expert witnesses including your psychiatrist, an addictions specialist (Dr. Robert Holden Stafford, a medical doctor with Tri County Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, of Orangeburg is great), and your A.A. sponsor or someone from A.A. with whom you are quite comfortable. I will not talk to you but I am certainly willing to talk with your lawyer.

    Thomas F. McDow
    A friend of Bill for 27 years

  22. Angie says:

    I am a 24 year old mother of a 19 month old girl, currently going through a custody situation similar to most of who commented here.

    I was in a relationship with my ex (who is now 48 years old) for almost 3 years. We separated almost 5 months ago, because his excessive drinking went from neglect and carelessness to physical and emotional violence of our young daughter.
    I feared for our daughters safety long before I left him, due to his neglectful parenting; often leaving knives, scissors, bottle caps etc. in reach of our now crawling/walking daughter. He would pass out at night, leaving doors unlocked and the stove/oven still on etc. I wanted to leave him, but feared that he would gain joint custody of our daughter, and I’d no longer be around to pick up after him and ensure she was safe in his care.

    My ex did not work, he was paid by workers compensation due to a work related injury, causing him to obtain surgery on both his shoulders. He started drinking heavily after this. He would start drinking around 11am everyday, and wouldn’t stop until he passed out at night, often bringing several beers up to bed with him.

    He was verbally and emotionally violent with me, and twice physically assaulted me, but charges were dropped. He never abused me again, and seemed to drink less for a short time after our daughter was born.

    I decided to leave him because one day, while intoxicated, he seemed more irritable than usual and was constantly yelling at our daughter (who was 15 months old at the time). He picked her up by one arm, smacked her bottom hard, and threw her onto the couch. He told her, “I’m going to put you out with the garbage, then you can be someone elses problem.”
    It terrified me, opened my eyes to what he was capable of, and I kicked him out of the house, changed the locks and sought legal help right away.

    Now, 5 months later, my daughter has been living with me, and my ex is seeking joint custody, two weeks with him a month, so that he doesn’t pay child support (he has two other children and is currently paying over $16,000 a month, garnished straight from his checks).

    I have not denied him visitation with our daughter, though always insisted he visited her in my home, while supervised. He hasn’t seen her in over a month, because he refuses to be near me, and my parents, who for obvious reasons do not trust him alone with my daughter. I’ve been told by police and my lawyer that I am well within my rights to do this, until we go to court and a judge orders me otherwise.

    Aside from excessively drinking; my ex drives while intoxicated, he takes several types of pain medications for his shoulders, antidepressants and consumes alcohol with these. He’s often passed out due to these alcohol/medication combinations, to the point of being unable to awaken by loud noises or voices, and even the cries of our daughter.

    I apologize for how long this comment was, actually didn’t intend to write the entire story. I’m just worried about how things will turn out in court, since I know I need to be able to prove a lot of my accusations. Just looking for some advice from those who have experienced a similar situation.

  23. Jody says:

    I am glad that I stumbled on this blog. I recently divorced because my ex-husband chose alcohol over his family. I stayed for 18 years because I wanted to provide my children with a stable home, but eventually the abuse (verbal, emotional and escalating physical) convinced me it was time to leave. It is nice to know that others have been through similar circumstances and understand my emotions and concerns.

    I am hoping that others who have been through this can give me some advice. Although my ex-husband would frequently drink and drive, he was never caught so there is no legal record to fall back on. It is likely that I will be going to court soon to modify visitation for my ex-husband who has moved out of state. I was told by my lawyer that even though my ex- is an alcoholic, he will be allowed to put my 10 year old on a plane to go visit him. Since I cannot keep him from having visitation, what kind of stipulations can I reasonably ask for to try to ensure my son’s safety?

  24. Jody says:

    Thank you for this blog. I have much in common with many of those that have posted, and it is helpful to know that others have gone through the same experience.

    I am hoping that I can get some advice from those of you who have “been there”. It is likely that my ex-husband will be going back to court to modify the visitation agreement for our 10-year old since he has moved out of state. While we lived in the same town, I was okay with him having regular visitation as I had older children who were also visiting and my son could walk home if there were a problem. Now that visitation involves putting my son on a plane with no one I know available to oversee or intervene, what stipulations can I ask for to protect my son? My ex- frequently would drink and drive, but has never been caught so there is no record to fall back on.

  25. Worried says:

    My boyfriend has three children with an alcoholic mother (I have been living with him for almost 2 years, so this does effect me). Their mother and father have joint custody, we have the kids every other week. They divorced 4 year ago due to her excessive drinking. While drunk, she would grope everyone around her, and get violent with my boyfriend. She has told him many times that she will not quit drinking.
    She is still drinking in excess every day (according to the kids). The oldest is almost 14 and he has recently asked to live with us full time because he cannot take his mother’s drinking anymore. Just over 2 years ago, she got a DUI with the kids in the car, my boyfriend tried to get this addressed with the courts, but the attorneys have not done anything. We don’t know if there is something that he can do to make the attorneys address the drinking, but it is getting worse. For the oldest to be vocal about her drinking, it has to be getting really bad, he is quiet and normally will just roll with whatever is going on, but he has been confiding in his father and telling him about her drinking. Last night my boyfriend called the oldest at 8:20, he answered the phone and said that he was already in bed. He called the ex (needed to know what time kids were getting dropped off) and she was so drunk she could barely form a sentence.
    There has to be something that can be done, if she gets behind the wheel of a car with them, they could be killed. They do not need to see their mom drunk every day. If the courts could do something to persuade her to start seeking sobriety, it would only benefit those kids. He is wanting to persue custody until she gets sober. He is not wanting to take their mother from them, but their safety is at risk, and so is their mental health. Living with an alcoholic is draining, and it is draining on the kids.
    What can he do? He is beginning to think that he has no choice but to continue to send them with her….drunk or not.

  26. JT says:

    Your wording is based on your experience, if alcohol/were simply a matter of choice then it would not be a disease. It would be as you put it a “moral issue”. I am in recovery and have bee for some time. You are an attorney who get’s paid off of these debaucles. Rightly so is intervention necessary for the welfare of the child, but would you do it for free. Your piety, is one who does have a choice, you do not have this disease. The solution is spiritual, not a matter of will…. hence powerlessness. Our country is ravaged by the effects of alcoholism and addiction. The majority of judicial system is funded by this disease. It is the number one health crisis in america; divorce, health problems, suicides; there is not one family in america that has not been affected. Yet we still banter, on weather it’s a disease, and will not even begin to find a solution until we admit there is a real problem and not just a bunch of weak willed people. It just offends me when people “attorneys’ speak on something as if they are a doctor, or know what they are talking about. How much money did you make on this article, how many referrals did you get?

  27. JdlP says:

    I am going through the same situation where I am fervently trying to get supervised visitation for when my five year old daughter is supposed to visit her dad in upstate NY (we live in the DC area). He has been in and out of rehab for the past two years. I agree with Mr. Forman that yes it is a disease and supervision has become a problem. My daughter’s father has put our lives in danger many many times and I myself had to go to a safe house with my daughter in order to escape this. I find it troubling that in this process to acquire sole custody of my daughter, alcoholism and even PTSD is brushed off and I am continually put in the position of trying to figure out how to protect my daughter because my experience has shown me the courts would rather take a chance with the alcoholic. I’m tired of struggling as a working class mother trying to find affordable representation while he, the alcoholic, doesn’t have a regular job and gets free representation. This talk of being offended at what alcoholism as defined as…I find it selfish that an alcoholic would even try to pursue custody before they are fit to be sober parents. So define it as you will, but the issue is, why are children unnecessarily put in danger in order to protect the rights of an alcoholic? And why does it seem that the only way the legal system will protect my daughter is if I’m rich enough to have a decent lawyer?

  28. Ray says:

    I have a question for all. I have had visitation with my daughter since she was a year and a half old. She is now headed to 13. I have had a great relationship with her for her whole life, and a somewhat stable one with her mother. I have tried to stay out of her affairs for 2 reasons. The courts in Washington dont care, and I feel that in most cases people should stay out of others business. She was arrested for DUI and has had a breathalizer on her car for 6 months, she and her boyfriend drink all the time at home the kids. He also has had 2 DUI’s. I was at a barbecue about 2 months ago and during the mid afternoon I tried a little vodka that my friend recommended, which was disgusting(Marshmallow). 2 hours later I had to take my daughter home to her mother. The mother smelled vodka on my breathe so is now refusing to let me see my daughter. I rarely drink, maybe once a month and always responsibly.
    What is your opinion of this situation?

    How can I fight this?

  29. Non-Alcoholic/Addict Dad says:

    Wife, an alcoholic/addict, claims she’s sober and has been in recovery for over 6 months. She’s lied about both of those before. She hooked up with a drug addict half her age in rehab and moved out when she was released. Both of them relapsed immediately. She lied about that. She allowed the kids (under 8) to be around him against my will. He overdosed on heroin in her apartment. She lied out about that until I found out what really happened. The kids saw him stumbling out of her bedroom, on his parents’ arms, bound for the hospital. I don’t know what they did with the drug paraphernalia. He was in rehab and a sober living facility for over 3 months. She wants the right to full custody and, if not, shared custody with absolutely no restrictions on this guy being around the kids or anything about either’s alcoholism/addictions. She will commit to nothing. NO GOOD MOTHER would expose the children to yet another alcoholic/addict. Any thoughts on how to at least keep the kids away from the junkie dude?

  30. Lawyers in York County commonly use an expression with each other and with our clients that we attribute to Tony M. Jones: “Bluebirds to not marry buzzards.” I quote it almost any time a client tells me how bad his or her spouse is.

    Once upon a time Jane M. Randall sent a letter blasting and libeling my client for most of the sins of mankind. I cut and pasted a picture of five bluebirds at the top of the page and four buzzards eating a rabbit or something that looks furry at the bottom of the page. Between the two pictures I inserted six hearts and in the middle of the hearts I wrote “do not marry.” I sent it to Jane asking if my client were a bluebird or a buzzard.

    I also printed and laminated the picture and I keep it on my desk as a reminder for clients. I know I have it somewhere on my computer but I cannot find it. Otherwise, I would offer a copy to everyone.

  31. Bluebird says:

    Mr. Mcdow, you are blessed by your ignorance. While it is undoubtedly true that some will resort to lying to defame, libel and ‘win’ a divorce, as if that is even possible. It is also a fact that, as a disease, alcoholism is progressive and not curable. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that the issues from both the initial post and subsequent commentary are very much a constant, horrific reality for any parent attempting to co-parent with an active alcoholic. You, are obviously married to, or involved with, a bluebird. I know this because of your obvious lack of insight and empathy. So, Mr. Mcdow, that leaves us with only two logical solutions. Either you are blessed by your ignorance. I hope, for the bluebird in your life, this is the case. If it is not, then you sir, are yourself a buzzard. These are people’s lives you are messing with. Tiny, helpless, innocent peoples lives. They deserve better than this.

  32. Response to Bluebird’s post of October 14, 2012: You are correct in at least one respect. I am indeed married to a Bluebird. Lucy and I met 27 years ago at the Flopeye Fish Festival 10-K road race and married seven weeks later. When you refer to my “obvious lack of insight and emphathy,” it suggests that you did not read my initial post to this thread dated July 30, 2010. If I am, as you say, “blessed by [my] ignorance,” it is an ignorance acquired representing mothers and fathers, alcoholics and tee-totalers, and bluebirds and buzzards in custody cases for forty-four years, from twenty-four years as an active alcoholic followed by 29 years of sobriety as a recovering alcoholic, and as the proud father of three wonderful children who have provided me seven grandchildren.

  33. Average clean parent says:

    McDow, despite sobriety, you’re actually still a narcissistic, self-centered, self-touting vulture who is obviously ambulance-chasing here for buzzards to “fee”d off of. Not that the alcoholic or addict buzzards don’t deserve to have their rights represented. Instead of listening to the sound of your own charlatan voice, how about “hearing and heeding” the truth and angst of Bluebird’s post and those of other parents affected by another’s disease. I wouldn’t be shocked if your poor wife is some codependent cow-tower to you.

    Pardon me for being as condescending and rude towards you as you were to Non-Alcoholic Parent.

  34. This is my last post on this subject, regardless of the response, but I think Average Clean Parent deserves a response. I may be a “narcissistic, self-centered, self-touting vulture” but I am not “ambulance-chasing here for buzards.” My basic goal in representing buzzards is to teach them to be more like bluebirds. I am not seeking business from this blog as I do not take cases outside of York, Chester, and Lancaster Counties, South Carolina, and I doubt that many of Greg’s readership live within those counties, other than the lawyers who subscribe to his blog. I take pride in the number of clients I have helped get help for their alcohol and addicitons problems and the parents and children who benefited as a result.

    My wife is generally considered to be the best and most civil lawyer in York County, both by other lawyers and litigants.

    A major differnece between your posts and mine is that I make no attempt to attack your spouse or significant other and I have the guts to sign my full name and accept responsibility for what I write while you hide behind the pseudonym Average Clean Parent.

    1. Juan says:

      that he WAS going to get FULL custody of my chidlren but he would give me a choice. i could sign the papers willingly and he would make sure that his attorney had it in the custody papers that i could see my chidlren as often as i wanted but i had to sign the papers that gave him FULL custody. BUT if i didnt sign the papers he was going to get custody anyways and NEVER see my chidlren again and he knows that i cant afford an attorney and did mention that while on the phone with me. so my question is how will that effect me when, however long it may take me, i do get the money to get full custody of my babies who i miss dearly. will the judge think i just signed those papers because i didnt want them and didnt care to have them but all the sudden have a change of heart??? i dont know what to do and have like one day to decide. im desparate ill do anything to see my mini me’s i dont know if it will do any good or not but i do have that conversation and several more recorded with him and his girlfriend saying horrible negative things to me and also him telling me it’s gonna be his way with or without my consent and if he had to do it without my consent i wjould never see them and the only way i could is if i signed .wow im really so confused and a lawyer right now is out of the question because i dont even have a job and somehow have to come up with 250.00 a month now for child support. for now their dad is more stable but my opinion thats not permanet im a mom on purpose it wasnt an accident and though it may be more than what i get now once a week and every other weekend IS NOT enough for me and certainly NOT FAIR TO OUR CHILDREN. they didnt ask for this

  35. Average clean parent says:

    Ok. I apologize to you and your spouse for the sentence about your spouse. Good point.

    I didn’t hear you apologizing for your “bluebirds – buzzards” comment, though, to all the posting parents, who are concerned with trying to keep their kids safe from drugs and alcohol. Have you heard of the recovery concept if making amends?

  36. Non alcoholic mom says:

    When I met my significant other, he had been sober for a year after several years of being in and out of hospitals and rehab. I did not know much about alcoholism and he said that because he hit his bottom and almost died after at least 3 DUI’s, had an alcohol blood level of 5.0 and because of all the suffering to himself and others that he has no interest to ever drink again. He went into an inpatient rehab for 30 days and hadn’t drank for years (about 8) since. We dated and eventually lived together and had a son together and he treated my daughter like his own. Although he wanted to get married, I felt hesitent to get married, but did not want to be with anyone else. We have been in a monogomous relationship for 8 years. He was sober most of our relationship until recently. He takes medication for depression, anxiety, and ADHD. We moved out of the country and for a period of time they did not have the ADHD medication readily available- shortly thereafter after 8 years of sobriety, he relapsed. I honestly never thought that I would have to deal with this and it is a nightmare. I worry all of the time whether he had been drinking and we have 2 young children. He is an admitted alcoholic and does not want to drink. He even stays at home for fear of going out and drinking, but this is no way to live for me or him. His personality changes when he is drinking and has become abusive when he fears that I will leave him. I have been the one that has the financial stability when he has been struggling to make a steady income for years, but he was finanically successful years before we met. When he is sober he says that he completely understands if I don’t want to be in the relationship anymore and that he is a different person when drinking. After several times over the past 8 months he drinks then lies to me about it. I gave him one last chance but he blew it after 3 days. I told him to leave the house and he did. However, he has no where to go and appears to be trying so hard to not drink. I feel bad for him and I do love him. He is committed to going to AA although there is not much of a program where we live. Another problem is that we are living in a place where drinking is prevelant. He is a really good person and good dad- he is the type of person that goes out of his way to help others. I am not sure what to do-although this is a little off topic- any advice would be appreciative. I looked to this site because I thought if I didn’t take him back I should file for child custody and totally agree that an active alcoholic parent should not have visitation-I hope more courts see it that way.

  37. True Bluebird says:

    I am a non-alcoholic parent dealing with child visitation issues with my ex a clinically diagnosed chemically dependent father with narcissistic personality disorder.

    (Backgrounder: We were married just out of college–more than six years before he ever had a drinking problem which quickly escalated to 10 years of severe and closeted alcoholism during our 16 year marriage yielding two young sons, now five and nine years old.)

    In a nutshell, we divorced quickly after his behavior turned physically abusive and I had him removed from the familial home via an OFP. Our divorce decree included a sobriety provision stating he could not drink alcohol during his child visitation. He quickly violated that sobriety provision and we found ourselves in front of a judge arbitrator who, after reviewing the violation and my ex’s drinking history, wrote a stronger sobriety provision providing for alcohol testing. 90 days later, he again violated. We returned to the same arbitrator, who wrote a stronger total abstinence provision barring him from drinking at any time, even when not visiting the children. She also put in place an extremely strict testing protocol utilizing an ignition lock system, randon EtG urinalysis, and on-demand PBT testing, and wrote that upon further violation we “shall” return to child informed mediation. Six months later, he has again violated and his parenting time has been suspended.

    I am weary to return to arbitration, as I do not believe it is fair and just that I should pay thousands more in legal fees to reinstate my ex’s child visitation rights when he cannot stay sober. I am going the route of writing a stip & order which would keep the same abstinence provisions and testing protocol in place, but include a clause requiring that–upon any future violation of the abstinence provision–we should return to arbitration BUT my ex MUST cover all financial responsibility for the arbitrators fees, child informed mediatior fees, reasonable attoryney’s fees incurred by me related to the arbitration, as well as any cost for child psycholgical services our children may need related to the suspension of his visitation time (it affects them awfully every time).

    My ex believes I am merely trying to control his life (far from the truth–I am sick of monitoring his sobriety and resent him for requiring me to have anything further to do with the disease I’ve already dealth with far too long for my taste), and that it is unreasonable for me to assign full financial responsibility for arbitration and related services. What would you say to him to convince him that the only person screwing up his life and his relationship with his children is him, and that I bear no responsibility–financial or otherwise–for his choice to continue drinking?

  38. True Bluebird says:

    I should add that my ex is a caring and affectionate father to the two boys, who adore him. My objective is now and always was generous but SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE visitation between my ex and his two young sons. I should also clarify that, while my ex ihas demonstrated the ability to abstain from alcohol for about 60-90 days at a time, it is his stubborn refusal to utilize a sobriety support structure that “does him in” every time. It is my hope that he can realize the escalating severity of his relapses where it concerns his parental access to his children, and that–if he realizes he is quickly heading to a situation where no judge or arbitrator will grant him almost any access to his kids–he will finally take his disease seriously and start to treat it every day of his life. Only then, I believe, can my children have the kind of relationship with their father that I dearly hope for.

  39. ALisa says:

    Scrolling through your blog and replies looking for some answers.I didn’t find one that fit my dilema.Any and all words of wisdom will be greatly appreciated
    They gave me protective custody because he was found to be drug(alcohol)exposed by his father.I now have custody of my nephew(8).His father(45,my brother) has given his parental rights to me instead of stepping up and atleast trying to do what would have been a plan from DCS and the courts.He has endstage cirrhosis and hep c.He will not stop drinking(I don’t allow visitation if he has)and his son is struggling with so much grief because his father does not visit.He won’t go even a day or 2 out of a month to see him.It is a sad situation where they are concerned.
    I am struggling with having to decide to end all visits because of the grief my nephew is dealing with.He struggles too with his dying mother as well.She is in a nursing home surviving on a ventilater because of endstage emphazyma(?) and a fatal lung disease.I question if all visits should be discontinued to help this little boy move on with his grieving.He rarely sees his mother.I will take him if he asks but that is not but 1or 2 times in a 3 month period.She has been there for 15 months now and as for his father,he won’t save enough minutes on his phone to even call his son throughout the month.
    I have my nephew in counseling and has been since his mother went to the nursing home.He is having problems acting out here recently.Not concentrating and completing his work in class.Hitting children on the bus.He is a very good little boy and this is not what he has been like until now.I am trying everything I can to get more counseling and using any and all the benefits his insurance offers to help him to deal with his heartache in a better way.I don’t know what else to do for him and by taking his father out of his life now before he dies may,my thought,lessen the hurt he will have to and is enduring.I will be asking his counselor the same question at his next session soon but not soon enough.
    Please help if you can!!
    Thank You,
    Love and Prayers,

  40. Tammy says:

    I can relate to so many of you on here. I have been fighting the courts for 11 years now with the issue of my sons father being an alcoholic. The courts said pretty much they could not do anything until something actual happened. Well something did happen in 2007 my sons father picked my son up at school and later took him to t-ball practice and showed up drunk with my son. He then drove home with my son in the care and got picked up for DUI and child endangerment also with a loaded shot gun right beside my sons car seat. He only had to pay a fine and lose his license in the state of W.V. only for 2 years since this was his 3rd DUI. His parenting time did not change nor did he get supervised visitation. Now 5 years later my ex’s new father in law showed up at my door pleading me not to give my son to his dad on weekends because now his new wife has left him and he is on a drinking binge and also doing drugs. He is hanging out with a boy who just got out of prison for having a meth lab. My son is finally opening up and telling me he wants his dad to get help but yet the courts are always giving him a second, third, fourth chance. I do not want to be the mother who is pleading for the court to do something here and one day it be to late and either my son or his dad not be here anymore. I truly just want him to get the help he needs for the sake of my son. I have put out over 40,000 in attorney fees over the past 11 years and have not gotten anywhere. I am now representing myself which I know is not a good thing but I can not keep spending money because my ex is making all of these mistakes. The court needs a lot of changing and I hope one day I can help make that change. If any suggestions please respond.
    Thank you

  41. Lori says:

    I have been in and out of the courtrooms for over 7 years with my son’s father. His visitation is basically every other weekend a few weeks in the summer and a few days at holidays. Over the past 7 years, has had me in court over everything you can think of. This finally ceased for about 9 months… then my son tells me about his father being drunk with him and leaving him at home alone to go hunting. He is 7, he gets scared. His dad doesn’t want him calling me, so my son is afraid to call me when he is scared. How heart wrenching it is to know your child is with someone that knows they are scared but leaves them alone anyway… or someone that cannot stop drinking for 48 hours every other weekend. I know what the court system has to offer and have seen it rip families apart because of guardian ad litems’ personal opinions.

    I also have had the pleasure of being on the end of Mr. McDow’s accusations during a hearing. I can’t blame Mr. McDow for not realizing all the lies he was being told, apparently I didn’t either in the beginning. Mr. McDow mocked me when the judge wasn’t present, made snide comments and was very disrespectful to me in court. So, I have no respect for Mr. McDow, nor do I appreciate him also running up my attorney’s fees because he “could”. I do not have animosity because I “lost” because I “won”… if anyone ever wins in these things.

    My issue with all this is… If my child is in a daycare that is mistreating him, I take him out of the daycare. No drama, etc. I don’t have to hire an attorney and go to court. However, In order for me to protect me child when he is with his father I can only pray (which is better than any court system, judge’s opinion, lawyer’s smoke screens, etc). God will protect my child. The court system would 1. Just cost several more thousands of dollars I could spend toward my child’s education (Basically all his child support has went to attorney’s fees – he wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting a dime of his money). 2. Cause more crap between my son’s father and his attitudes toward me and verbal/mental abuse when he lies to the police about me harrassing him or lies on affadavits and have people sign them without reading all of it. 3. Cause more stress in my family. Court battles effect everyone. 4. Cause my son to realize his telling me the truth about things only resulted in my being stressed, money being spent on attorneys, his dad behaving more poorly than normal, all for… at best supervised visitation… Unless you have a lot of money to pay for a PI, how do you know the visitation will be supervised by the father’s father who is a preacher. He lies too, so what’s the point, so a PI would be the only way and then you have to go back to the attorneys and back to court with your proof and all for… still praying and trusting God to take care of my child instead of making lawyers richer!

  42. Grandma at wit's end says:

    There is no disputing that regardless of who the alcoholic/addict is within families dealing with this…..we all suffer. Except, the alcoholic gets to self medicate their feelings away while the remaining people are left dealing with all the hurt, pain, trauma of having one of these drinkers/druggers in your life. All of the stories here share a common theme….someone is drinking and or drugging and someone isn’t. As the mother of a now grown full blown alcoholic – no words can truly express the pain that lives within our family. I have raised my daughters daughter now 11 years old because of an ongoing alcohol and drug problem. If sobriety is not seeked by the alcoholic then there should be ZERO tolerance regarding access and/or parenting time. My daughter now 30 years old has lived a temulchuois life filled with drama and despair. The whole family has lived in her disease. I am so sick of her. I pray that sobriety finds her because she is doomed if not. I have resigned myself to this. She hasn’t seen her daughter now for almost 18 months….and that is because I finally decided that we were not going to be subjected to her lifestyle and wackiness that ensues when dealing with a person in active addiction. My daughter has endangered her daughter and other children by driving under the influence not to mention the emotional hurt that she has put upon her. By finally stopping the madness – I did just that. Halloween 2011, my daughter was once again “cleaning up” at my house promising to be attending meetings and working her sobriety. Complete lies, I knew she was lying to me, I know all the signs. My GD called me in tears telling me she couldn’t wake her mother (passed out on couch) she was suppose to be taking her out to trick and treat. That was it from me!! I threw her out of my house for the last time. (As a side note I have had custody and care and control of my GD since birth – yes there is so much more to this story). I attended Alanon and took my GD to Alateen and also therapy. I have held a hard bottom line which is no contact what so ever!! Until my daughter is not only sober but working a program of recovery. What has ensued is abuse of me. My lovely daughter now leaves horrible VM messages and texts my GD’s phone with more lies. Now she likes to say that I have kid napped my GD….and am keeping her from her, I suppose in her own tortured mind this might ease some of her guilt? She has alienated anyone that wants sobriety for her and continues to lie and threaten to just “show up”. The ball is in her court now…literally. If she wants to see her daughter she knows what she must now do regardless of her lies and deceit and dangerous lifestyle – I know my beloved GD is safe and no longer exposed to the craziness that is her life. Here is the thing people!! Children don’t remain that way forever – they do grow up and are able to decifer for themselves who did what to to who. They will only resent those that put down the people they love and hold dear. I don’t bad mouth my daughter to her daughter…never have. I have merely explained the disease of alcoholism and addiction, my key is to educate and arm her with information because let’s face it genetically speaking she could also end up alcoholic. Lets stop bashing and start educating. I believe no addict or alcoholic should have access to ANY child whether their own or someone else’s. unless of course they are in recovery!! AND I don’t mean just haven’t had a drink in 3-4 days…I mean bonafide absolute recovery. Lets error on the side of caution for the sake of our kids. These little ones are our future leaders and politicians!!! Get it together people….no active alcoholic is a safe and viable option for any youngster. Most alcoholics are also masking other mental illness, like bi-polar and schizophrenia. My relationship will never be the same with my daughter – sobriety or not, but I have forgiven her, but not for her for ME. I believe as long as there is life there is hope…..we can all learn something from these stories. So sad…so inspiring.

  43. Kathy says:

    I’m currently going through custody and my daughters father has never met her, was in a rehab facility then started drinking again, and physically abused me. I broke things off with him then found out I was pregnant. My daughter will be two in June and now he and his fiancé are trying to say I’ve interfered with visitation. He has not been in her life he told me to go away, he’s still drinking and manipulative so I’m letting the courts handle it. His fiancé tried to get me to say he can’t see her and I canno just hand over an innocent child to a man like this . Her safety is the most important thing!

  44. Teresa says:

    To those who say that it is up to the individual to quit they are right. But until they can make that decision on their own it is up to the other parent and the courts to protect the children. I find it irresponsible of anyone who, as my soon to be ex-son-inlaw puts it, my drinking doesnt affect anyone but me. How dare the courts and any so called caring people think it is ok for a alcoholic to play russian roulet with innocent children yet the same people would be calling 911 if they saw a child swatted by an adult. People alcohlics are sick and need help. But many refuse to see they need it. Help the children of these unions to live in happy adusted homes with the parent that is willing to sacrific for them. If the other parent has to do supervised visitation until they figure life out so be it.

  45. Non alcoholic mom says:

    I have a 4 month old daughter and my husband is al alcoholic. Recently we moved into our own house and now his drinking on the weekends and on holidays has gone through the roof. He doesn’t make it to work some Mondays. He starts Friday- wakes up Saturday morning still drunk and then starts drinking- continues to Sunday night. It’s not every weekend but when he drinks he’s terrible. I’ve left a bunch of times for the weekend- a week- and three weeks one time. I went back the last time because he promised to get a therapist any the monthly vivitrol shot. He hasn’t gotten the shot this month and has started drinking on weekends again. I’ve stayed because I’m also worried about visitation. She’s 4 months kid and can’t talk to tell me what happens.
    My question is- for all of you who divorced and had to go through visitation issues- would you do it all again? I keep thinking if I stay I have more control over what she sees. Do I stick it out until she can at least talk?

    Please help guide me-

  46. evelyn says:

    I live in Dallas. I am so glad I found this website….Seems i’m not alone; when my son visits his father, I wonder if THIS will be the weekend he really ties one on and drives with my son in his car…Even though I have talked to his family members, girlfriends, etc saying “Please don’t let him drive with my son in the car”, I am simply astonished at the naivete of a police officers and courts…Not to mention possible sexual abuse that I reported and am still getting backlash from….I just want to keep my son safe…when my ex drinks—he blacks out and loses all contact with reality….I pray for myself; that God keeps me here to take care of my son so that that he does not get custody if something should happen to me…I pray that a million angels surround my son and keep him safe….I tell the ex “no drinking and driving!”…He just gets angry and says he does not have a problem…I am so tired of all of this wasted energy….I am afraid that If I report this to the courts(if I can provide them physical evidence) it would boomerang into something I did not intend and make things even worse….What type of things can a court do to help if any…What sort of will should I draft to make sure that my son does not end up in the wrong hands as we know the courts are cr*p…

  47. diana says:

    This is a really helpful blog and it just goes to show how devastating this diease is to all. I have been divorced for three years from an alcoholic husband. we have 6yr old daughter who has been dealing with all of my ex’s instabilities. He has been in and out of so many rehabs and detox centers I have stopped counting. I has remained sober for maybe 3 months at a time in 5yrs. I am so tired of seeing the disappointment on my daughters face when I have to tell her that daddy is not coming to pick you up today. She knows ye drinks. I have struggled with letting her have some sort of relationship with her father or just cutting him off. My divorce agreement states any suspected drinking I get full custody. My question is can I not let him see my daughter for one year? If he remains sober for one year and shows some consistency then I would be more than willing to let him back in her life. We have not gone to court for visitation. Until recently we have worked it out, using his parents as the supervisor during visits. but i am over this awful cycle. I would prefer to keep him away until he shows some responsibility and soberity. He cant afford a lawyer. He cant even hold a job.
    He is now living in a half way house and has been sober a few months during this he has called her a couple times. He wants to be invoved but his instabiliity really affects my daughter. Any advise would be helpful. I want to do what is best for my daughter and do the right thing.

  48. Amanda says:

    I am so worried about my childrens safety when they are on visits with their father. I have primary residency but their father and I have joint custody. He was suppose to take the kids every other weekend and has never stuck thru with this. He also has not paid child support as ordered. He recently was caught for OUI, and also after being caught for OUI & losing his license got into an accident drinking and driving with a suspended license. My son was suppose to be with him that day but Thank GOD my ex never showed up to get our son and ended up getting into the accident hours after he was suppose to have our son. I am scared to death something is going to happen to my kids. I am in the process of filing a contempt of court order for the child support and visitation, but want to address my concerns about the children being with their father drinking. The lady at the court said a Protection order really wouldn’t be necessary as he is not abusing the children. So if he asks me to have them, and I say no; he could bring me to court for contempt. I am so lost with what to do, any advice is appreciated. I cannot afford a lawyer and do not know all my legal rights as a Mother.

  49. Annette says:

    I divorced my husband last year, after 1.5 years of marriage. Our son was 9 months at the time. He is an alcoholic, verbal/emotional abuser, former drug (pot, meth, cocaine) addict, attempted suicide one time, etc. The advice I can give you non-alcoholic parents is, GET EVIDENCE! Which means, when your husband/ex is drunk & belligerant, call the police! Get a police report. If he throws something in the house, call the police! Get restraining orders. Get reports. Take pictures. Collect, collect, collect. Do not be afraid. The more papers you can show the judge, the easier it will be to gain custody & safety for your child. My ex got drunk once & got physically violent, so I called the police. He was arrested & I got an EPO & TRO for DV. That police report & those facts, written in black & white by an officer, have been INVALUABLE. If there is DV, press charges! I hate how so many women let the charges drop. They are letting their children down. I got 90% custody, with no overnights/no vacation for him. But you have to be smart. Act on behalf of your child, don’t protect your ex.

  50. Liz says:

    Hi, I have a question for you. I am a single mother to my two year old son. His father and I were together for three years, but never married, so according to the state of Massachusetts, where I live, I have sole custody. Which I am incredibly grateful for. My son’s father has had a drinking problem since before I met him. He as a “functioning” alcoholic until I got pregnant, and then things started going downhill very fast. We have been separated for over a year now, and he lives in a different state. He moved back in with his mother when he got fired from his job in Massachusetts. He has only seen my son 5 times in the last year, and has not given me any child support in the last 7 months. My question is, can I cut off communicatin with him completely? According to his family, he has recently taken a turn for the worse (drinking and using drugs and telling them he wants to die). He calls to ” talk” to my son everyday, but my son doesn’t even really know who he is. Even when we were living together, he would only see my son for about 20 minutes a day. I’ve consulted with a lawyer in the past, and she said that since he was paying me child support he still had rights to see him. I do not want anything from him anyway. I know he doesn’t have the money to take me to court right now, but I do not want to do anything that could potentially harm my case in any possible future court proceedings.

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