By Julie Garrison
Special to DadsDivorce.com
If you suspect that your ex-wife has an alcohol or drug problem, she has probably been “flying under the radar” for quite some time.
Most people with substance abuse and addiction problems hide it until they have invested so much of themselves that they are no longer able to cover it up.
In the addiction rehab world, this phenomenon is called a “loss of control” where the alcoholic or addict begins leaving many signs of his or her problem.
Once you begin seeing that your ex is having a substance problem, there are five concrete steps you can take for the protection of your children.
1. Have a frank discussion with her. She will probably deny she is having a problem, but if you let her know you are aware of it, she may allow you to keep the children while she enters rehabilitation. Chances are slim that it will be this easy, but it is always worth asking.
2. Obtain legal counsel. Your men’s divorce lawyer will possibly advise you to enlist the help of Social Services in your efforts to take physical custody of the children. If your ex-wife does not agree to seek help, you don’t want your kids in her care or custody. It is simply not safe for them in myriad ways.
3. While you are working through this situation, be sure to keep a written record of everything that happens related to your ex’s drinking or drug use. Your lawyer will probably ask to make it part of the court file in proving your case.
4. Once your children are under your care and control, make sure you notify their schools, daycare providers, athletic coaches, and any other adults they spend time with that your ex-wife is not allowed to take your children without your permission.
5. The judge in family court may allow your ex-wife to have supervised visitation with the children. This is probably the most visitation that your children’s mother is going to be allowed for quite some time. The court may also require that your ex-wife undergo drug and alcohol testing before any supervised or regular visitation.
Supervised parenting time may occur in a case if the judge has concerns for the safety or well being of the child.
The court may order a neutral third party to supervise parenting time and many counties have a company or service who will supervise the parenting time for a fee.
This scenario may seem excessive, but it is imperative that the person supervising your ex-wife’s visitation with your children is a person who cannot be manipulated by her to remove the children.
Supervised visitation does not have to be forever. If your ex-wife gets help and remains clean and sober, the court may grant her unsupervised visitation in increasing blocks of time.
However, if your ex-wife has a long relapse history of returning to addiction or alcohol abuse, she may never be able to see the children in an unsupervised setting. Your attorney and the judge will advise you of how much visitation is in the best interests of the children.
Julie Garrison has been writing articles and short stories for the past 10 years and has appeared in several magazines and e-zines.