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Separated mother hasn't filed anything yet, wonders about her alcoholic husband

Your Question:

I live in NV. I have lived away from my husband for 2 years, there is no legal separation here. Prior to that he lived and worked out of state a couple years and came home some weekends and most holidays, often drunk. He is an alcoholic who had lost his job, that's when he went to work out of town, drank there too - one dui a few years ago - a couple times in rehab - he works when he is sober off and on.

When he moved back in the home with us, it was on condition he didn't drink. He drank a great deal, was verbally abusive toward me and the children, and threatened to steal the youngest child, who began to have nightmares. The older children were called obscenities and he threatened to take them out back and shoot them. He wouldn't leave and when I couldn't take it anymore, we left.

The children and I live in an apartment. He is invited to all holidays and birthdays and visits almost daily when he is sober. The problem is it is hard to tell when he is sober, as long as he is able to get here, he is welcome (he has had blood alcohol levels of 3.0 and still been walking around and driving) When he is maintenance drinking I can't always tell. The children and I are hestitant to get in a car with him and they are afraid to be alone with him. The older ones are not inclined to want to be with him. The younger one who has forgotten much of what happened before we left has a positive relationship with his father.

The father runs a business from his home and has a great deal of equipment and supplies that could be dangerous to children and adults. Garage supplies such as break fluid and other things are left on the coffe table and paint thinner is on the kitchen cupboard. When he drinks eventually he becomes hallucinatory and passes out.

My question is this, he calls and sees the children as frequently as he likes, although the teens attitude is not always great to him. They are not willing to go to his home. I often bring the little one out for visits and they go to the park and play ball etc. I stay around the area, but do not intefere in their activity unless invited. I do not talk bad about him.

He has been sober for about 6 weeks and now says that I am hiding the children from him, he helped us move some things a few weeks after we had left, saying he understood why I needed to move. This makes no sense to me, he says that he can get the court to let him see them 2x a month and I have to bring them to him and make them come. We have not seen a lawyer yet, am pretty sure he is just getting this from someone he knows. Can you tell me what I should do, if he continues this way? and does he have a chance at unsupervised visitation if he cleans up for a few weeks to a few months at a time. he has not been sober more than 3 months for 5 years.


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My Answer:

I'm going to make a big assumption that you (as mother) don't have any significant parenting issues that would be of concern to a court. My guidance relies on that assumption.

I think it's in everyone's best interest if he can clean himself up. That includes HIS interest. According to Marc Ackerman's research (he's a researcher into child custody issues), judges and evaluators both report that active alcoholism is the TOP influential factor in their custody recommendations and rulings.

I'd suggest that you file for separation, seek orders for rehab and addiction counseling, seek orders for a fast-track home study (i.e., to confirm what you claim about his home), seek orders that he is not to drink around the children, and seek temporary orders for ONLY supervised visitation (with a review hearing in six months).

At the review hearing, he'll be able to stand up in court and tell the judge that he's been doing great in rehab, that he's six months sober, and that he's back on a good track. This would be an awesome scenario for everyone.

Otherwise, at that six month hearing, you will say that he hasn't changed, and the court will likely keep everything the same if the court agrees with you.

In terms of custody, you're in the power position here.

As is my understanding, addicts often have to hit rock-bottom before they can start climbing back out.

You've largely let the situation stagnate, with no real progress, and no real pressure on him.

Faced with the reality of divorce, and the real threat of largely losing almost all contact with his kids... maybe that will be enough to kick his butt out of his addiction and take rehab seriously.

The one thing I'll emphasize is that most court orders contain a clause akin to "Parties may modify this parenting plan upon mutual agreement."

If a few months goes by and your husband turns into Mr. Wonderful and Mr. Responsible, you may decide to let him be around the kids a bit more. You don't ALWAYS need to wait for a court to change the orders.

But, I think it's most important for you to protect the kids from a drunk dad, and all the chaos that comes with it. If you have court orders stating how things are gonna be, that gives you a much more powerful position to then negotiate with dad if he's showing he's back on track.

Bottom-line, of course, is the question... Why the heck should he change right now? You ain't done nothing to force it. So do something to force it. He may hate you for a bit, but it's best for him (and the kids).


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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