How to Prove Alcoholism in Custody Cases
In contested custody cases, South Carolina judges are eager to hear about either parent’s substance abuse problems. Under state law, judges must decide what is in the child’s best interests. Certain factors include each parent’s physical and mental health, as well as their ability to provide a safe home.
Alcoholism or drug use shows that a parent will probably struggle to provide a safe environment for a child. In fact, an alcoholic parent is at risk of hurting their children, possibly by driving under the influence with children in the car. This factor could weigh heavily against a parent seeking custody of their children following divorce.
You Have the Burden of Proving Alcoholism
If you are going to raise alcoholism in a custody fight, then you have the burden of coming forward with evidence to establish your allegations. A bare accusation in court is not enough. In fact, if you can’t establish that your spouse is an alcoholic, then there’s little reason to even make the allegation. You will look untrustworthy if you can’t back up what you say with evidence.
In family law court, you need to establish facts by the preponderance of the evidence standard. This means that, based on all evidence, it is more likely than not that the fact is true.
How to Prove Alcoholism in Custody Cases
So what evidence is useful? For one, if the other parent admits to being an alcoholic, then you can use that admission. However, given the stakes of a custody fight, few will admit to this fact. Instead, we will need to rely on the following pieces of evidence.
Have people seen the other parent drunk? If so, we can bring them into court to offer testimony. Of course, being drunk once doesn’t make someone an alcoholic. If all you have is your sister testifying that your ex got drunk on your wedding night, then that’s not the greatest proof. Instead, we would ideally like to hear from witnesses who have seen the other parent drinking to excess on multiple occasions.
Not all witnesses are the same. Judges will probably assume that witnesses who are related to you are biased. Having a mutual friend testify is much stronger than a sibling or parent.
Also consider testimony from people who work with the other parent. If he or she shows up to work drunk on many occasions, then this is very powerful testimony. It would show that there is a real drinking problem.
DUI arrests are excellent evidence of a drinking problem. Convictions for drunk driving are even better. They can show a pattern of alcohol abuse, not to mention poor judgment. As part of our representation, we regularly ask about criminal history. We might even perform a criminal background check on the other parent.
Many alcoholics begin to suffer negative health effects in middle age. They can experience cirrhosis of the liver or cardiovascular problems. We can request medical records if they show that the other parent is an alcoholic.
Credit Card Statements
Maybe the other parent buys large quantities of alcohol each day with a credit card. We can request copies of statements to show the purchases at a liquor store. Of course, if he or she is a regular customer, then we can also have store clerks testify on your behalf that they see your ex every day.
Voice or Text Messages
Some drunks reach out and leave incoherent texts or voicemail messages. In fact, that might be the only time you hear from this person. If you have saved these rambling messages, we can introduce them into court. They are highly suggestive that there is a drinking problem.
We can’t forget drug testing, which many judges find perhaps the most persuasive evidence of all. The EtG Test can find out if your ex has had a drink in the past 80 hours. This is basically a urine test. Of course, this doesn’t mean he or she is an alcoholic. One drink in a 3 day period doesn’t equate to alcoholism. Nonetheless, a positive test can disprove that they were entirely sober.
Advances in technology have also given courts the ability to use Soberlink and similar devices. They are remote testing options that allow for real-time testing, with results sent directly to the court. It is a little like a portable breathalyzer. At various times, the other parent will be prompted to provide a breath sample into the device. Facial recognition software ensures that a stranger doesn’t provide a sample in their place.
Because the person using the Soberlink gives multiple samples—sometimes several every day—it is harder to hide a drinking problem.
Can You Disprove You Are an Alcoholic?
You might find yourself on the receiving end of an accusation. Fortunately, you can use all the evidence mentioned above to argue you aren’t a drinker.
Admittedly, it is harder to disprove a negative. The only person who has lived with you every day is probably the parent on the other side of the custody fight. The fact that your Mom says you are sober every time she sees you doesn’t establish you don’t have a drinking problem. She might see you only once a month.
Ideally, you will stay completely sober during the custody fight so you can use drug testing to prove you have not had any drinks.
Contact Us for Help with Custody
Surasky Law has served as legal counsel for many mothers and fathers involved in divorce or paternity actions. Sometimes, alcoholism can make the difference between receiving custody and only getting supervised visitation. If you have an alcoholic spouse, then we can help you bring this drinking problem to the judge’s attention. You will strengthen your hand considerably and possibly obtain physical and legal custody.
Call us today to find out more about how we can help in a child custody dispute.