If you’re divorcing a recovering alcoholic or addict, you may feel some pressure to seek sole custody of your children and perhaps even to limit visitation by your co-parent. Likely, such a move would require litigating the divorce, since your spouse probably won’t agree to that.
However, divorcing a spouse who has had substance abuse issues in the past doesn’t have to mean an all-out battle for your kids. As long as your co-parent isn’t a threat to your children’s health and safety and they have been taking their recovery seriously, you may be able to mediate that part of your divorce along with the property division and support aspects of it.
How do custody battles affect kids?
In fact, researchers have found that a long, high-conflict custody fight can have as many negative consequences for kids as if they’d been neglected or even abused. One study found that nearly two-thirds of children whose parents fought over their custody in court experienced clinical anxiety. Some also experienced depression, sleep disorders and even became prone to violence.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek a parenting arrangement with which you’re comfortable. You have the right to ask for conditions, like your co-parent agreeing to alcohol and/or drug testing, at least around their parenting time.
Why showing support for your co-parent is crucial
One of the advantages of mediation is that people are more likely to stick to agreements that they’ve had a role in negotiating than those handed down by a judge that they may feel are completely unfair. By showing your co-parent that you support their recovery and want to help them protect or rebuild their relationship with your children, they may be willing to give you a greater share of parenting time, with an agreement to reassess the arrangement at a later date.
Recovery can be a lot to deal with, and taking on the responsibility of being a single parent – even a part-time one – can be highly stressful for anyone, let alone someone trying to stay sober. Having goals is crucial for anyone in recovery, and the goal of being able to spend more time with your children can be a highly motivating one.
Every family’s situation is unique. You need to decide what is best for you and your family. Don’t rule out mediation as the best way to arrive at a parenting agreement.