The Role of Alcohol in Divorce, Child Custody Orders and Financial Settlements
As London family law solicitors, we get asked a lot of questions about alcohol and its relevance to divorce, child custody and contact, and financial settlement proceedings. In this blog we answer some of your questions about alcohol and its relevance to separation and divorce.
If you need specific advice on family law issues we are here to help.
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Alcohol and divorce proceedings
Whilst alcohol may be a factor in your decision to separate, or the root cause of your marital difficulties, it is no longer relevant to the grounds for your divorce proceedings. That’s because the government has introduced no-fault divorce. In no-fault divorce proceedings you do not need to explain why your marriage has broken down or make allegations saying that your husband or wife has behaved unreasonably.
Divorce law was changed to try and make divorce proceedings less adversarial. However, if your marriage has come to an end because of one partner’s alcohol use it may still affect the outcome of a child custody or contact dispute and impact on the financial settlement. You may also still need help in coming to terms with the reasons for the marriage breakdown and counselling can help with this.
For legal advice on no-fault divorce give our family law solicitors a call on 0203 959 9123.
Alcohol and child custody and contact
Children are precious and most parents want to protect their children so they don’t get to see or hear anything that isn’t age appropriate. When parents separate the issue of alcohol consumption, and the impact on parenting ability, can become a contentious issue between parents. The teetotaller may say one drink is one drink too many whilst the heavy social drinker may not have an issue with the other parent’s level of alcohol consumption, save for the other parent driving whilst over the limit and putting the children and others at risk.
Talking to a children law solicitor about why you or your partner see alcohol as a concern impacting on decisions on childcare, custody and contact can help. The solicitor is able to give you an honest view and offer guidance on how the court might assess the alcohol related concerns.
For example, your children law solicitor may ask you:
- What is the level of alcohol consumption and pattern – is it weekend restricted?
- How does alcohol affect the parent? For example, some may get tired, maudlin or others aggressive
- Have alcohol related issues resulted in domestic abuse? Have you previously applied for an injunction or called the police or been referred to social services?
- When you were together did you or your partner drink as much as you are now doing? If the answer is yes, did the parent who was drinking look after your child? If the answer is yes, why do you now object to custody or contact? What is different about the drinking post separation?
- Why do you think the alcohol usage affects the ability to parent and care for your child? The answer to this can vary depending on the age of your child and their circumstances. For example, a teenager is at just as much risk if in a car with a parent who is over the limit but is (or should be) able to get themselves some food and call if they need to return home early from a contact visit
- Are there safeguards that could be put in place to make contact safe and enjoyable for the children? For example, contact taking place at a contact centre or in the presence of grandparents?
- Does your child need help with their feelings? Some children can feel very angry when a marriage breaks down and they can take that anger out on the parent that is trying to protect them. That can lead to tension and hurt if you are the parent who is getting teenage flack when all you are trying to do is ensure your child is safe. School counsellors or other professional support can help children explore their feelings
- Have you tried family mediation to explain and discuss each parent’s perception of the impact of alcohol on decisions on child custody and contact? With older children, it can be possible to involve them in the family mediation process
If you need help in resolving custody and contact after your separation or divorce or you need advice on a child arrangement order application then give our specialist family law solicitors a call on 0203 959 9123.
Alcohol and financial settlements
When it comes to the relevance of alcohol to financial settlements it is hard to give an answer on its relevance without lots of information about your family circumstances.
Generally, alcohol doesn’t affect financial settlements or financial court orders made by the court. That means if you argue that you should get a greater share of the family assets because your ex-partner blew family savings on alcohol, or did not get promotions at work because of their alcohol related behaviour, you aren’t likely to be successful. Courts rarely want to go back over the bones of a marriage to try and apportion fault or to make conduct an issue.
Alcohol may be relevant to a financial settlement in different ways. Your ex-partner’s dependence on alcohol may colour your views on the importance of capitalising spousal maintenance payments rather than receiving monthly maintenance. That may be because you are concerned your ex-partner can't hold down a job or will be an irregular payer. You may therefore prefer more cash upfront in the financial court order so you can buy a new house with a mortgage that is manageable on your salary alone.
There are other ways that alcohol can affect a financial settlement or your approach to financial negotiations. For example, you may have strong views about the importance of life insurance to protect spousal maintenance and child support payments or about the need to secure a pension sharing order to protect retirement income.
If you are separating or getting divorced and you need to reach a financial settlement and secure a financial court order, give our family lawyers a call.
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