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Alcohol Monitoring for Child Custody

When parents disagree about child custody, a judge will decide the issue based on all relevant evidence. Alcohol abuse is one major consideration in most courtrooms. If you have a substance abuse problem, then you can expect a judge to take a dim view of whether you should have custody of your children. Many judges will see you as a threat to a child’s physical and emotional safety. You might also need to have your visitation supervised.

Any parent with an alcohol problem can take proactive steps to improve their odds of obtaining custody. One option is to participate in alcohol monitoring for child custody. A judge might order monitoring anyway, depending on the allegations raised by the other parent in court. Contact Surasky Law to speak with an Aiken, SC child custody attorney to learn more.

Alcohol Abuse Allegations

To get a leg up in custody negotiations, one parent might allege that the other has a drinking problem. Any allegation like this must be backed up by evidence, unless the other parent admits the truth of the charge.

Alcohol abuse is widespread in the United States. About 50% of people drink alcohol each month. From that group, roughly half engaged in binge drinking at least once a month, which is defined as 5 or more drinks for a man on one occasion, or four or more drinks for a woman. About 12% of this group (or roughly 6% of the entire country) were heavy drinkers.

In our experience, substance abuse allegations arise most often in contested child custody cases. If you are the parent making the charge, you should consider what evidence you have to show a judge. This is an explosive allegation, and you shouldn’t expect even a known drunkard to admit the truth. A history of drunk driving arrests is solid proof your ex has a problem with alcohol dependency. But otherwise this may be hard to prove, and it’s best to talk with a lawyer at Surasky before making such allegations so your case is as strong as possible, and we can help you prove this and keep your child safe.

If your ex makes an allegation about you, then you’ll want to disprove the charge. You also need evidence that shows you are sober. Few people win in a “he said she said” type of battle.

Proving Alcohol Use

Most judges will consider the following evidence to establish either a problem with alcohol or sobriety.


People can testify about whether you or your ex struggles with alcohol. The best witnesses are unrelated to either party in the litigation. For example, your wife might have gotten drunk several times at a bar and driven away in her car. You might ask the bartender who was on duty to testify to that.

Family witnesses like parents or siblings are often biased, and a judge might not credit their testimony.

Urine Tests

The EtG test measures alcohol in a person’s urine. In fact, it can show whether a person has ingested alcohol at any point in the past 80 days.

However, there are weaknesses with this type of information. It’s not illegal to drink, for one thing. Nor does having a few drinks one day a month prove you have a drinking problem. The EtG test doesn’t conclusively establish whether someone abuses alcohol.

A judge might order periodic or random urine testing, to catch you unaware. But this approach still has all the same problems. Does one drink after work show you are a drunk? Not really.

Alcohol Monitoring for Child Custody

A judge might want to monitor possible alcohol abuse while the litigation is ongoing or even after deciding custody. For example, a judge might agree you have an alcohol problem. To continue to see your children, you need to agree to be monitored.

Alcohol monitoring might make the difference between custody or supervised visitation. If you can stay clean—and if you can convince a judge of that fact—you can maintain custody. You can also improve the odds of modifying child custody in the future.

Some technology exists to monitor alcohol consumption. We’ve already discussed urine tests above. Another option is a remote breathalyzer, like Soberlink. You blow into the device, and the results get reported in real time to the court or a caseworker. Devices like Soberlink have facial recognition and other tools which make it impossible to cheat. So you can’t have your neighbor blow into the device while you sit in the backyard drinking a six pack.

Remote devices like this have many advantages. You won’t have to show up at a certain date and time to give a urine sample. Instead, you can maintain your typical lifestyle with minimal intrusion.

Why You Should Embrace Alcohol Monitoring

Many parents chafe against alcohol monitoring. They think it is an invasion of their privacy or irrelevant to child custody. Sadly, this is the wrong mindset. South Carolina judges absolutely consider whether you have a drinking problem, and it will make a difference in your case.

Monitoring is most beneficial if any of the following apply:

  • You have a history of DUI arrests

  • You have a history of committing crimes while intoxicated

  • The other parent makes credible accusations backed up by witnesses that you are an alcoholic

  • You know you have a drinking problem and are willing to admit that fact

If any of the above describe you, then you are at a serious disadvantage in a child custody dispute. You might not get custody, or a judge could limit your time with your children. What you need to do is show a judge you are sober and can stay that way. Soberlink and other alcohol monitoring can be a big benefit to your case.

Contact an Aiken, SC Family Law Attorney to Learn More

We can discuss this issue with anyone involved in a child custody fight or is worried that past drinking history will come up in court. It is always best to be proactive. At Surasky Law, we have worked with mothers and fathers in child custody disputes. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call us today to schedule a confidential consultation with our office.


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