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Responding to an alcohol abuse accusation in child custody courts

I'm sure you've heard the phrase “all is fair in love and war.” This refers to the idea that, when it comes to the most important things in life, going to extremes in defense of what you hold to be most dear to you is not something to be frowned upon. Doing whatever it takes to win a battle or win someone's heart are qualities that we have historically looked at as being positive. Think about all of the heroes throughout history they have one battles using bravery and how we view those people over the course of time. Likewise, we all love a good love story and a person who does what it takes to win the heart of someone that he or she cares about is looked upon with admiration.

I also think that you would be able to find many people who would agree with this saying in the context of a child custody case. When it comes to your children, most people are willing to go to great lengths to preserve their relationship to their children. as a parent of three kiddos myself, I can tell you that there is virtually no limit to what I would do for my children especially in regard to the time I am able to spend with them. Virtually everything we do is parents is predicated around being able to build our relationship and build our time with our kids. To have that taken away from us, potentially, in a child custody case can be extremely disconcerting. 

That is why many parents will go to extreme lengths within a child custody case to help ensure that their case is strengthened as much as possible while the case of their opposing parent is weakened. Much of the time this just means that parents will look for every opportunity to present the strong suits of their case while pointing out the weak components of their opposing parents case. There isn't anything wrong with this, and it should be expected to take place in your child custody case as well. You can plan with your attorney ahead of time to make sure that you are not caught flatfooted when it comes to allegations in evidence presented by your opposing party. 

It also happens with regularity in child custody cases that accusations of drug or alcohol abuse will occur. The simple truth is that these type of allegations occur because there are problems that some parents have with drug and alcohol abuse. Just because you hear about a drug or alcohol abuse allegation involving a child custody matter does not mean that the allegation is unsubstantiated or made up. It probably just means That there has been an history of drug or alcohol use to some extent in the past. 

To hear about other people, go through problems like this in their own child custody case is one thing, but it is an entirely different thing to have to go through accusations about alcohol abuse in your own. If you are going through a case right now and have an alcohol abuse allegation presented to you how would you proceed? Would you know what to do in relation to the allegation and how to respond in kind? Do you have an alcohol addiction or abuse problem that needs to be dealt with professionally? These are the sort of questions that I would ask myself were I in your position. 

What issues would alcohol abuse impact within a child custody case?

There are basically two areas of a child custody case that I believe would be primarily impacted by an alcohol abuse accusation. The first area has to do with possession and visitation and the second area has to do with conservatorship rights and duties. I think the best place to start our discussion would be in regard to these subjects and from there we can talk about other issues having to do with alcohol abuse accusations in your own child custody case.

Being able to spend time with your child after a child custody case is incredibly important. Most parents going through a child custody case have some concerns regarding what the future of their relationship with their child is going to be after going through a difficult child custody case. Getting back to what I was discussing at the beginning of today's blog post, parents are willing to go through all great deal in order to make sure that they have an opportunity to continue having a strong relationship with their children after the case has come to a close. 

If you add into this scenario an accusation regarding alcohol abuse, then that right to spend time with your kids in the future is a serious question mark. many parents feel like they are not able to plan ahead in their lives until the issues related to their child custody case have been sorted through. Possession and Visitation are two terms associated with child custody cases that are used interchangeably many times. Both of these terms relate to time with your children. Possession refers to being in physical possession of your children during specific periods of time and Visitation refers to the periods of time that are designated for you or your co-parent to spend with your kids. 

In many child custody cases the parent with whom the children do not reside with primarily will be assigned a standard possession order for Visitation and possession. This is the typical, every other weekend visitation schedule that you may be familiar with. Specifically, a standard possession order calls for first, 3rd and 5th weekends of each month going to the parent with whom the child does not reside with primarily. Modifications can be made to this standard possession order along the way during a divorce or child custody case by parents. However, the standard position order is a tried and true method for dividing Visitation and possession time between parents. 

An accusation regarding alcohol abuse could stand to getting in the way of your being assigned visitation and possession rights. I am not saying that you will be denied any time with your kids if your co-parent accuses you of alcohol abuse, but I am telling you that it can have a significant impact on how Visitation time is divided up. 

The basis for this should be pretty straightforward. If it is believed that you present a threat to your child's physical safety, then a judge would be in a position to restrict your Visitation. Since your co-parent would be aware of this, it is very unlikely that he or she would negotiate with you in a normal fashion. Most likely, he or she would negotiate with you very aggressively due to the fact that they now you have incredible alcohol abuse accusation that can be thrown at you in court. 

The other area of a child custody case where a credible alcohol abuse accusation could have an impact is in regard to conservatorships. Conservatorship refers to rights and duties that you hold in relation to your child. For instance, you have the right to spend time with your child and you have the duty to care for him or her. The ability to make decisions for your child in regard to medical issues, educational issues and other areas of their life are also included in conservatorships issues. This is an area of a child custody case that is oftentimes overlooked but is nonetheless very important. 

Accusations regarding alcohol abuse can potentially hinder your ability 2 make decisions on behalf of your child due to the thought that you are thinking process is not clear as a result of your abuse of alcohol. If you cannot be trusted to maintain sobriety then how could you be trusted to make decisions that involve the most important areas every child that? How can you be expected to care for your child if their physical safety is in jeopardy every time you are with him or her? 

These are the main areas of a child custody case that I would expect to be impacted by an accusation of alcohol abuse. If you were to face a child custody case and we're accused of abusing alcohol, then you need to take the threat of this accusation very seriously. It does not matter if it is completely baseless or not and all true. Even the mere accusation of alcohol abuse can be enough to delay your case and potentially hinder your ability to build a relationship with your child after the child custody case has concluded.  

What to expect in regard to a child custody case where alcohol abuse is alleged 

in your own child custody case, if your opposing party accuses you of abusing alcohol then you should expect that to become an immediate part of the case. Your opposing party may request a hearing to determine whether or not alcohol testing will be necessary for you during the case and after its conclusion. At that hearing both you and your opposing party will present evidence to the judge as to whether or not alcohol testing should be mandated. The terms of that testing: how often it should occur, who will be administering the testing in which party will pay for the testing will all be determined. 

If a judge believes that this kind of testing is necessary, then you should expect to either be tested that day or soon thereafter. I have seen judges call a recess for a hearing like this and actually order drug testing companies to come in and test parents at the courthouse. This allows a judge to get an instantaneous idea of whether or not these allegations are serious and introduces the element of surprise into the equation. You will not have an opportunity to sober up or not use alcohol in order to prepare for a test that will be administered that very same day. 

Ultimately, accusations of alcohol abuse can turn into a he said she said type of situation where you are accused of abusing alcohol and then have to come back and say that you do not abuse that substance. The tricky part of the whole thing is that if you're opposing party can produce evidence to show that you have abused alcohol in the past. Examples of this could be passed arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol for incidents involving spousal or family violence that were caused by alcohol abuse. Many times, if the allegation is old enough, a judge would be less likely to hold it against you as strongly. However, recent evidence of alcohol abuse can hurt your child custody case a great deal. 

If you have a history of alcohol abuse, then you can take proactive steps to get in front of any accusations made by your opposing party. For instance, you can submit evidence of any recent alcohol or drug tests administered upon you to show the judge that you're abstaining from use of alcohol. If you attend any classes or therapy for alcohol addiction you can submit attendance reports and other documents to show that you are taking proactive measures to stay in front of your addiction or abuse problems. In other words, you should not shy away from the subject or be hesitant to address it head on. Take advantage of the time that you have to deal with the problem on a personal and health level. The steps you take are the best evidence you can produce to show that the alcohol problems are in your past and are being dealt with by you every day. 

Questions about the material presented in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about Texas family law and about the services that our law office can provide to you and your family as our clients. 


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