When it comes to the question of alcohol abuse, disagreements between divorced parents risk turning even bleaker because of the potential for the alcoholic parent to cause harm, be it intentional or not, to the child during a visitation. So where does family law in Greenville, South Carolina, stand on the matter of child visitation if the child in question is potentially in danger?
Removing visitation from the alcoholic parent and protecting the child from the possibly dangerous scenario can be a daunting proposition for any parent. Parents in South Carolina have a recognized right to court-ordered child visitation, and they further have a right as adults who are over the age of 21 years to consume alcohol, even in the presence of children. Even once concerns are raised, the judge handling the case will often make efforts to restore child visitation rights to the abusing parent as soon as possible provided the parent agrees to comply with stipulations that may include, among other things, the completion of a treatment program, supervised visits, and even drug tests.
To better understand more about how to untangle the dubious combination of alcohol along with the supervision of children, this article outlines what the state’s law says on the matter.
The Laws on Child Visitation
The state’s visitation laws do not cover alcohol concerns in great depth, but there is a provision made for alcohol consumption restrictions within section 63-15-50. This section states that if a parent is found guilty of domestic abuse, the parent will be subject to restrictions of the court which may include supervised visits as well as the necessity to abstain for both the possession and consumption of alcohol or any other controlled substance during the visit and for 24 hours leading up to the visit.
There is some leeway in the phrasing of the law. However, judges may see fit to impose other conditions considered necessary so as to provide safety for the child and any other household members of victims of domestic abuse.
Due to the broad provision, it could be possible to file motions to request specific interventions on behalf of the children. A court-appointed party may order supervision, the exchange of the child in a public place, and an obligatory treatment program for the alcohol parent.
Further, child visitation may be suspended, but considering a parent’s right to see the child under most circumstances, the suspension is likely to be temporary and during a review of the case facts or completion of an alcohol treatment program.
Family Law in Greenville, South Carolina and Title 63 – Intent and Purpose
Under SC section 63-7-10, any intervention by the state of South Carolina into family life on behalf of a child has to be guided by the law, sound professional standards, and solid philosophical underpinnings. What this means is that courts have to have a compelling reason to intervene between a parent and a child.
But, the court does recognize that it has to acknowledge different intervention needs of different families and further establish an efficient system of services in the state to safeguard the development and well-being of any endangered child. The court must further aim, if appropriate, to preserve and stabilize family life.
Alcohol, Child Endangerment, and Domestic Abuse
Family law in Greenville, South Carolina pertaining to child protection may seem daunting to parents, particularly when it is considered that the state can do little until a case of child endangerment, neglect, or abuse is otherwise documented.
For example, SC Section 56-5 has several provisions where breaking the law with passengers who are younger than 16 in a vehicle is considered child endangerment. Essentially, a parent would have to catch the alcoholic parent in the act of operating a car under the influence of alcohol with the children inside the car and alert law enforcement officials.
Then there is SC Section 63-7-620 that states that an officer may take a child into custody if the official has probable cause to believe that due to neglect or abuse a child’s health, physical safety, or life is in danger if the child is not taken into custody. The officer may then release the child into the custody of the sober parent, and must then notify the Department of Social Services. The officer will also have to open a preliminary investigation.
During an investigation, the child’s risk will be assessed, and the judge may order restrictions on visitation or impose elements such as an alcohol abuse treatment plan.
Fighting for a Child’s Safety May Be Tough, But It Is Not Entirely Impossible
The courts make every effort possible to follow due process and ensure both parents have ample opportunity to visit their children. If a parent is concerned about allowing a child to visit with an alcoholic ex-partner, the parent should seek the help of a dedicated family law attorney who will present the facts of the case and attempt to convince a judge to open inquiries before something happens to the child.
An average of 40 percent of children under the age of 18 will face their parents getting divorced at some time in their lives. Children are certainly resilient, but divorce can scar, and those scars can be long-lasting, leading to feelings of depression, displacement, and betrayal over the divorce. Just as it is important for the parents to have a solid support group of family, friends, therapists, and the community around them, the children also need strong support systems. Divorced parents should seek counselling for their children, and it is important to keep in mind that the combined effects of divorce and an alcoholic parent can be a lot both for the child to handle and the sober spouse to bear.
Contact a South Carolina Attorney Today to Discuss Child Visitation Rights
If a parent is concerned for their child’s safety with their alcoholic ex-partner, they can talk to the lawyers at Elliott Frazier today about their legal rights and options in terms of Greenville, S.C. family law and the safety of their child.
Angela Elliot Frazier is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years now. Angela Frazier believes in helping you through one of the most stressful times of your life. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.