If you’re going through a divorce with someone who abuses alcohol, you’re likely familiar with the whirlwind of pain and difficulties the process can bring. Divorce is already painful enough; having to put forward the energy to reason with an alcoholic ex-partner can be exhausting.

In some cases, the partner who is suffering from alcoholism might attempt to maintain some level of custody of your children after the divorce. You might be uncomfortable with this possibility—from past breaches of trust to the risk of driving while intoxicated, maybe you feel that it’s unsafe for your children to be around them alone.

The struggle with alcohol can last a lifetime

Once a social stigma or mark of poor ethical values, alcoholism is now recognized as a disease and a mental health affliction. That being said, some of the behaviors induced by the disease can disrupt the wellbeing of an entire family.

Real breaches of trust, like lying, hiding drinking, and infidelity may have occurred in the past, providing evidence of unpredictable or unstable behavior. The vast majority of people who seek treatment relapse within four years, often making it a lifelong struggle.

This sets a stage for distrusting your ex-spouse around your children for extended periods. While some people who struggle with continued alcoholism are considered high-functioning and can hold down stable lives, it’s still worrisome to the other parent that a drinking relapse or other incident could be dangerous for the children.

What are your alcoholic ex-partner’s rights?

People struggling with alcoholism are typically still entitled to some form of custody, although there may be exceptions in extreme cases. Some people are required to attend ongoing court-ordered treatment programs. Others must prove their sobriety before, during, and after time with the kids and through random testing.

If you believe your spouse’s alcohol abuse is truly a danger to your children and that they should have limited and/or supervised visitations or custody, you’ll have to provide evidence supporting that worry. This might include proving that the alcohol abuse puts your kids in danger, and that the alcoholism is a real and ongoing issue.

While people with criminal records and histories of violations like DUIs, stints in treatment, and drug possession may be seen as unfit to parent, some alcohol abuse cases can be more difficult to prove in a custody battle. A substance abuse expert may be called upon to testify. It’s also possible that your children may be interviewed.

Protecting your children is a priority. A person with alcoholism may not be entirely unfit for parenting, but if you believe protective boundaries must be in place, a divorce attorney can provide counsel about achieving that goal.