Alcoholism And Child Custody

April 29, 2021

Going through a divorce can truly test a person’s strength and ability to fight for what is most important to them. Everybody wants to be a good parent, but sometimes, child custody disputes require the parents and the court to take a deeper look at what is in the best interests of the child. At Johnson Law Group, our experienced Colorado family lawyers have worked with many clients facing child custody matters. Though it is never easy, we strive to understand our clients’ needs and objectives and fight tirelessly to protect their financial and parental rights. If you have questions about how alcoholism may affect a child custody agreement, contact our attorneys at (720) 463-4333.

Child Custody in Colorado

Under Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-124, the legislature recognized that generally, co-parenting is optimal. Where possible, courts should encourage co-parenting to allow children to receive support, love, and affection from both parents. The legislature also recognizes, however, that co-parenting is not always possible or appropriate after a divorce or separation. The court must consider the best interests of the children when making a determination as to parenting time.

Parenting Time

Colorado does not typically use the phrase “child custody.” Instead, the law refers to the breakdown of parental responsibilities between “parenting time” and “decision-making responsibilities.” Rather than grant sole or joint custody, the court will allocate these responsibilities as it sees fit.

Parenting time refers to the physical custody of the child. The schedule of the child’s physical residence will be divided according to the child’s best interests unless it is proven that parenting time with one of the parents will substantially interfere with the child’s health or development.

Some of the factors the court considers in setting a parenting time schedule include:

  • The child’s wishes, if they are sufficiently mature to make a reasoned decision
  • The child’s parents’ wishes
  • How well the child will adjust to a new school or home
  • The relationship of the child to each of the parents, other siblings, or other people who may impact the child’s living situation
  • Mental and physical health of all the parties
  • How well a parent will encourage love and affection with the other parent, where appropriate
  • Whether the parents exhibit a pattern of time commitment and putting the child’s needs before their own

Decision-Making Responsibility

The other aspect of child custody in Colorado is “decision-making responsibility.” This describes the parents’ authority to make legal decisions on behalf of the child. Again, the court must first and foremost consider the best interests of the child. Some of the factors the court considers in allocating decision-making responsibility include:

  • How well the parents can work together to make joint decisions
  • Whether the parents have a system of values and mutual support such that they can create a positive and nourishing relationship with the child
  • Whether sharing decision-making responsibility will promote continuing contact between the child and both parents

If a parent has a history of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence, the court must find that it is not in the child’s best interest to allocate mutual decision-making over the child.

Alcoholism and Child Custody

Because Colorado, like many states, bases child custody decisions upon the best interests of the child, alcoholism can be a barrier to a parent receiving parenting time and/or decision-making responsibility. Living with a parent with a serious substance abuse problem can hamper a child’s development and emotional wellbeing.

Alcoholism Statistics

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children with parents who suffer from alcoholism often suffer in school performance, social relationships, and physical and mental health. This is why courts are likely to find that living with a parent with alcoholism is not in the best interests of a child.

Effects of Alcoholism on Children

For many people suffering from alcoholism, it can put a significant strain on relationships and impair your ability to perform daily life functions and ability to care for a child. In some cases, it may have even been one of the main factors in the divorce. For a spouse with alcoholism, they may feel as though they are unfairly losing their children, while the other spouse may be concerned with the prospect of sharing child custody with someone who drinks.

Regardless of which side of the divorce you are on, alcohol use may come up in a child custody proceeding. One spouse may enter witness testimony to prove that the other spouse’s drinking problem threatens the health and safety of the child. If you find yourself in these circumstances, consider speaking with a Colorado divorce attorney at Johnson Law Group to discuss your case, especially if you are concerned that alcoholism will be raised as an issue.

Options for a Parent with Alcoholism

Although a court is unlikely to allocate significant amounts of parenting time or decision-making responsibility, a parent with alcoholism is not necessarily cut off from their child entirely. Unless the parent is shown to have committed abuse or neglect, the court may find that there is still value for the child to maintain a relationship with this parent. In these cases, the court may order unique arrangements to help monitor the parent’s alcohol use and ensure the safety of the child.

For example, a court may grant supervised visitation rights or require random drug and alcohol testing in order for a parent to maintain their visitation rights. The order may also specifically prohibit overnight stays with the parent suffering from alcoholism. The court may even order mandatory counseling or rehabilitation.

Talk to a Johnson Law Group Family Attorney To Learn More

Though we always strive to reach the fairest arrangement possible, the reality is that child custody disputes can become very contentious and emotional. We have supported many clients through these difficult times and fought for countless parents’ rights to raise their children and make decisions on their behalf. If you or your spouse are going through a divorce where alcoholism and child custody is at issue, consider speaking with an experienced Colorado child custody lawyer to help ensure your rights are protected. Call Johnson Law Group at (720) 463-4333 to speak with one of our attorneys and learn more about your legal rights.

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