Should I allow child contact with my alcoholic ex-partner? banner


Should I allow child contact with my alcoholic ex-partner?

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Your ex-partner’s alcoholism may be the reason your relationship broke down but should it be the reason why child contact stops between your child and your ex-partner? In this blog we look at the effect of alcohol, from social drinking, bingeing and alcohol dependency and addiction, on child contact.

Online children and family law solicitors

If you are worried about contact arrangements or want to stop contact it is best to take children law advice before taking any action. The specialist children and family law team  at OTS Solicitors  can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form to set up a video conference, Skype or telephone appointment with one of our specialist children lawyers.

Child contact: what is an alcohol problem? 

It is worth asking the question ‘’what is an alcohol problem?’’ as you get many different answers. It should be said that London children law solicitors are not doctors or health professionals. Nor do they qualify as lifestyle gurus or advisors. However, children law solicitors can look at the issue of alcohol problems and the impact on child contact.

Alcohol issues come in many different forms from excessive drinking on social occasions, binge drinking when feeling down or at the weekend, alcohol dependency to alcoholism. If the problems are severe enough, alcoholism can even lead to childcare social services referrals and local authority involvement.

Some children law solicitors are asked if child contact can be stopped or only take place on a supervised basis in situations where their ex-partner may have an alcohol issue but is what is sometimes referred to as a ‘’functioning alcoholic’’. That is someone who holds down a job and can present to others as not having an alcohol dependency.

Children law solicitors say that it is best to take legal advice on your particular worries about alcohol and child contact as individual circumstances will form the basis of a children law solicitor’s advice and recommendations on whether to apply for a child arrangements order or an order prohibiting contact. For example:

  • If your ex-partner refuses to acknowledge they become aggressive and angry after they have had a drink and either won't promise to not drink during contact or keep breaking their promise
  • If your ex-partner is a binge drinker then even if your child is a toddler contact may be safe if your ex-partner agrees not to drink on contact weekends and they can stick to that commitment. If a weekend is too long maybe one overnight contact visit at a time or day visits is the best option for your child
  • When an ex-partner is an alcoholic there may be contact options such as contact still taking place if your child is a sensible teenager or for younger children contact visits  taking place at a grandparent or aunt’s home or contact centre
  •  If there are concerns that your ex-partner’s behaviour when in drink creates risks such as forgetting to turn up for contact, arriving late, thinking it is ok for your teenager to have a drink or watch inappropriate films, refusing to co-operate about bedtimes and homework or insisting on driving the children when you aren’t convinced that they are safe to drive and within the legal limit.

It is not uncommon for one parent to say that the other parent has an issue with alcohol when the parent is little more than a social drinker and whose alcohol intake hasn’t increased since the parental separation. Allegations of alcohol dependency can be made simply as an excuse to stop or minimise contact. Questions then have to be asked if the parent allowed their ex-partner to look after the child during the relationship but is only raising the alcohol issue at a late stage, for example, when their ex has formed a new relationship or is getting remarried.

Assessing child contact and alcoholism

Any allegation of parental alcohol misuse and child contact concerns should be looked at carefully by a children law solicitor so that they can advise on the best options for your child. It may result in a recommendation that family mediation is attempted with legal support or that an application is made for a child arrangements order to specify how much contact, if any, should take place and the appropriate safeguards.

Managing child contact and alcohol dependency

Managing parent and child contact visits when there are concerns about alcohol dependency is always a difficult balancing exercise between the benefits of contact and any risks associated with contact. If a family judge has ordered contact then it can be particularly hard as you may still be worried about the risks. If there is an existing child arrangements order and you think that the risks to your child have increased due to your ex-partner’s alcohol problems you should take legal advice before stopping contact. That is because if you stop contact you could be in breach of the court order.

If the risk that your ex-partner hasn’t increased but you know that you are struggling to deal with your child going off for contact then sometimes talking to a professional can help and provide the support that you need.

Can a child benefit from child contact?

Some parents think that it their ex-partner is an alcoholic that their child won't get any benefit from contact but that isn’t necessarily the case.  Most experts say that psychologically children do benefit from maintaining a relationship with both parents as they benefit from knowing who their parents are rather than having an idealised picture of them or blaming the parent that they live with for the parental separation and lack of contact.

Many parents say that one of the most frustrating aspects of managing child contact is an ex-partner’s failure to turn up to contact because of alcohol usage or turning up late. As annoying as inconsistency is many children still want to be able to see their parent and would worry more about them if contact stopped altogether.

If you do have worries about the reliability of your ex-partner and their contact attendance record then it is best to keep a record of the dates they don’t turn up or arrive late and how that affects your child and their behaviour. For young children it may be best not to give advance warning of short visits so that the child isn’t disappointed if their parent doesn’t turn up for contact.

Whilst most parents want to know what happened during a contact visit it is best not to cross examine a child too much as that may make them more reluctant to be open with you about any problems during contact and how that made them feel. If you are able to appear relaxed about the child contact visit the more likely that the child will feel able to open up to you if there was a problem during contact.

Balancing the benefits of maintaining a relationship between parent and child and not wanting to expose your child to adult issues is a real dilemma for many parents whose ex-partner has alcohol dependency issues. That is why it can be helpful to get the professional help and legal support you need to help you work out and implement what is best for your child.

Online children and family law solicitors

If you have questions about child contact or are worried about your ex-partner’s alcohol issues and the impact on child contact then the children and family law team of specialist children law lawyers at OTS Solicitors are here to help you. The team can answer all your children law questions. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form so we can set up a skype, video conference or telephone appointment for you.

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