If you're divorcing a co-parent who struggles with alcohol abuse, you may be hesitant about sharing custody with them until they stop drinking. You may be torn between your wish for your children to continue to have a relationship with their other parent and your concern for their physical and emotional health and safety.
That's a valid concern. Psychologists and other mental health professionals say that being exposed to a parent who abuses alcohol can have short- and long-term consequences for a child. Let's look at some of those consequences:
Lack of self-worth and self-confidence: Alcoholic parents often lash out verbally, if not physically, at their children. This can have long-term consequences for their self-esteem.
Stress and anxiety: When a parent is highly unpredictable, children become fearful of what to expect when that parent gets home. Further, they learn that they can't rely on the parent to remember things like picking them up at school or showing up for their soccer game. Even when children don't understand exactly what's going on, they know something isn't right and they worry about their parent.
Lack of structure and security: This is particularly true in the aftermath of a parental break-up. An alcoholic parent often can't provide that. They may neglect to do basic things like fix meals, help them with homework and get them ready for school on time. Children of alcoholics often say they became the parent -- having to take care of their siblings and even the alcoholic mom or dad.
There are a number of custody and visitation options that will give a parent who's struggling with alcohol abuse the opportunity to see their children, but in a safe environment. There are also alcohol monitoring tools that you can mandate in your parenting plan to ensure that your co-parent is sober when they're around the children (or staying sober at all times). An experienced family law attorney can discuss the options so you can decide what you'd like to ask for as you work through your custody and visitation agreement.