It is an unfortunate fact that heavy and dangerous alcohol use is prevalent in our society. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 15.1 million adults ages eighteen and over have Alcohol Use Disorder. Alcohol is not a de facto dangerous substance when used wisely and in moderation, but when abused, it can have substantial deleterious effects on a person’s health and social relationships. When the person using alcohol has custody of children, this risk becomes even higher. Custody and parenting time decisions will be made based on the best interest of the children, pursuant to Minnesota Statute § 518.17. The first consideration of any custody order is to protect the emotional and physical health of a child. To that end, subsection (5) provides that a court shall consider “any physical, mental, or chemical health issue of a parent that affects the child’s safety or developmental needs.” This would include if a parent has a recent history of alcohol abuse. Parents involved in a custody or parenting time dispute should note that reasonable and occasional alcohol use, even in the presence of the child, is not likely to be considered dangerous to a child. Alcohol is legal, and parents are free to have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer while barbecuing on a Saturday. However, if a parent is consistently over-imbibing in the presence of the children, this becomes a potentially dangerous situation, especially in the case of very young children who require constant supervision.
When a court is faced with a situation wherein one parent is abusing alcohol, the court will have several solutions at its disposal to protect the children. These solutions can be tailor-made to each individual case, depending on the needs of the children and the parents. A common solution when a parent is accused of using too much alcohol while having the children would be to insert a provision in the parenting plan preventing the parent from using alcohol during their parenting time and 24 hours before it begins. If a court is convinced that a parent’s alcohol abuse is severe and poses a more immediate threat to the children, a court could even require supervised parenting time. A court will examine the evidence of a parent’s alcohol use and decide upon the best way to protect the children from the potential dangers associated with alcohol abuse.
We have helped many clients tailor-make parenting plans to protect children from an alcoholic parent. Contact us today at (320) 299-4249 to talk about your children and what can be done to protect them.