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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Alcoholism and Child Custody in Washington Divorce

Alcoholism is a larger problem in society than most would guess. While some people consider themselves merely "social drinkers," they might in fact be alcoholics that rely on alcohol to have a good time. Alcoholism is a disease, like any addiction. While it is not nearly as serious an allegation in a child custody battle as drug abuse is, it is still serious.

When a parent is said to be an alcoholic and the other spouse has evidence to back it up, that becomes an issue for the court in setting up the Parenting Plan (custody). There is statutory basis for the court limiting a parents involvement in parenting when alcoholism is an issue.

The issue is not just that the parent consumes alcohol, but that their alcohol use affects their ability to parent. The biggest problem with alcoholism is that while a parent is drunk or out drinking, that parent is not paying attention to the children and seeing to their needs. In addition, alcohol compromises a person's judgment and may lead that parent to do some pretty risky things with the kids in the car.

When the parent's judgment is compromised due to alcohol, the risks for the children go up.
Courts are supposed to award the custody of the children to the parent that will be able to care for them best and keep them safe. Alcoholism impedes the ability of a parent to do this and so the children are at risk.

When alcoholism is an issue, the court will frequently order an alcohol evaluation, and sometimes require the parent to follow the recommendations (treatment). The court can condition visitation on the parent following through on these conditions. Sometimes the court will include a restraining order, that the parent not drink or be under the influence of alcohol during the visits. Sometimes the court will allow a parent to demand a urinalysis test if they suspect the other parent being under the influence during a visit. The court can also require the visit to be supervised if the parent cannot control their drinking.

The Renton law firm of Mogren, Glessner & Roti, represents clients in a variety of family law cases, including the custody and parenting plans in a divorce. We have 4 attorneys for you to chose from. Please visit our web page at for more information.

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