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Many parents drink alcohol in front of their children. But is this okay? And can it result in a loss of custody?

The Short Answer

The short answer is that parents won’t lose custody simply because they consume alcohol. However, if alcohol becomes a problem, the courts may take action, which could mean that a parent loses custody. Generally speaking, parents have the right to raise their children as they see fit. So if a parent decides to consume an alcoholic beverage in front of the child, the parent is probably within their right to do so. But this does not mean that the children should be witnessing their parents falling over drunk or blacking out. This is especially true if there are no other adults there to care and supervise the children while that is occuring. When a parent’s consumption of alcohol inhibits their ability to parent effectively, or puts the child in danger, the parent may be subject to restrictions and conditions of parent-time, or even lose custody, especially if they have an established history of such behaviors.

The Child’s Best Interests

In most cases, it’s in the child’s best interests to have a relationship with both parents, and this is true even in cases where parents have active addictions and/or other issues that prevent them from parenting effectively. In cases where both parents are able to meet the child’s emotional, physical, and mental needs, both parents will usually have some custody. Usually, having an occasional alcoholic beverage does not impact a person’s ability to care for their children. However, when parents have active addictions—such as alcoholism—then they may end up with temporarily reduced custody, supervised visitation, or some other conditions to exercise parent-time. These other conditions may require a parent to provide verification or sobriety immediately before and/or during parent-time with the children. This way the child will still have a relationship with the parent, but the parent is able to address their active addiction before assuming additional responsibilities regarding the care of the child. No matter what your ex is going through, it’s extremely difficult to completely remove a parent’s access to their child, especially if the parent wants to be involved.

The Child’s Religious Beliefs

Some divorce decrees have specific language regarding which religion the child follow. If your divorce decree dictates that your child will be raised in a religion that does not allow for alcohol consumption, can you still drink in front of your child? Generally, yes. However, based upon the language of the order parents may not be able to endorse the use of alcoholic beverages, nor can they openly discourage the child from the religious practices as dictated by the divorce decree. While parents are generally subject to extreme censorship regarding the children and religious beliefs, they do need to watch what they say in the presence of the children. If this is a concern for you and your family, you may need tailored guidance from an attorney who’s familiar with your specific situation.

When Alcohol Is a Problem

While parents are permitted to consume alcohol in the presence of their children that does not mean that parents are able to do whatever they want just because it’s their parent time and alcohol is legal. Parents need to take care to ensure that their drinking habits do not put the children in danger. This means that parents should not become intoxicated in front of the children, especially to the point where the parent is no longer able to function or supervise the children. Children should not be taken to bars or other establishments where they may witness things that are not appropriate for young children to see. If you believe your ex is abusing alcohol, and that it is not safe for your child to be in their care, it’s important to discuss your concerns with an experienced family law attorney.

Effective Co-Parenting

If your ex wants you to stop drinking in front of the children, it may be a good idea to go ahead and stop. While many people don’t want to do this on principle, it can help reduce drama. Children may be surprisingly aware of tension between their parents, even if the parents never argue in front of the children. This may lead to children feeling as if they need to take sides or feel guilty for wanting a relationship with both parents. While you very likely do have the right to consume an alcoholic beverage in front of your child, it may be easier for everyone and in the best interest of your children to abstain during your parent time.

We’re Here for You

If you have concerns about your present custody arrangement, Coil Law is here for you. Our experienced attorneys have the knowledge and the skills to help you succeed in family law courts. If you’re ready to get the legal advice you deserve, contact CoilLaw today for an initial consultation.


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