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Negotiating your parenting plan as a recovering alcoholic

If you're a divorcing parent who has struggled with substance abuse, you're not alone. It's one of the most common reasons that people divorce.

If you and your spouse are in the process of drafting a parenting plan, it's essential to remember that even if you've gotten sober, your spouse (and maybe your children) may not fully trust your ability to be a good parent. Your co-parent may want to take certain precautions, like requiring you to use an alcohol monitoring system if drinking has been the problem.

While you may be offended at the suggestion that you submit to monitoring, it's actually used in a lot of custody cases. It can be a way to increase the amount of time you have with your kids.

Many parents think that their kids are too young to be impacted by their drinking or that they are successfully hiding it from them. However, as one psychologist points out, "Children are emotionally and physically dependent on their parents growing up. If you don't have a parent that's physically present because of an addiction to alcohol, the children are at much greater risk of having intellectual, social, and emotional problems."

The psychological effects of a parent's alcoholism can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Embarrassment
  • Guilt

Of course, alcohol abuse can also endanger a child's physical well-being. This could involve anything from neglecting a child to driving under the influence with them in the car.

As you and your co-parent draw up a parenting plan, they may want stipulations included like alcohol monitoring (at least around visits), prohibitions from driving with the kids, and requirements regarding which friends and family members can be around the kids. It may depend on what parenting issues occurred in the past around your drinking.

You may not want to give in to all of your co-parent's stipulations. You may see them as a retaliation for past bad behavior or a way to control you. However, it's important to remember that protecting your children's well-being should be the No. 1 concern for both of you. Your family law attorney can provide guidance as you negotiate custody, visitation and parenting issues during your divorce.

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