How to Prove Alcoholism in a Custody Case in South Carolina

Contact Us
5 stars (150+)
5.0 Google Rated
100% Secure & Confidential

When judges decide custody cases, the primary concern is the best interests of the child.

Determining this requires asking questions about parental fitness. Alcoholism can impact a parent’s ability to provide for the child’s best interests. But how are claims of alcoholism proven or disproven? Greenville family law attorney Angela Frazier provides a few considerations.

Understanding the Burden of Proof

The parent who accuses the other of alcoholism has the burden of proof. He or she must provide strong evidence that not only is the other parent abusing alcohol, but also that the abuse is having a detrimental effect on the child’s well-being. Mere allegations without evidence will likely backfire, causing the judge to question your motives and honesty.

If the judge is convinced that a parent’s alcoholism is harming the child, he or she may decide to:

  • Issue an order granting more custody rights to the other parent
  • Change the existing custodial arrangement
  • Restrict the alcoholic parent’s access to the child
  • Impose limits on the alcoholic parent’s visitation rights
  • Alter legal custody (i.e. decision-making authority)

How to Prove Alcoholism in Custody Cases

A parent can demonstrate both that the other parent is abusing alcohol and that the abuse is hurting the child through the following:

Witness statements

Eyewitness statements can corroborate a parent’s arguments concerning the other parent’s alcohol consumption and what effect it has on the child. To avoid claims of bias, try to find neutral parties, like teachers, who have no stake in the outcome of the case. The witness should also be willing to testify in court and under oath.

Police reports

If the alcoholic parent has ever received a DUI or caused an automobile accident while under the influence of alcohol, this behavior could support your allegations. The same is true if police have ever been called to a domestic disturbance or other incident (e.g. public intoxication) involving alcohol. The goal is to demonstrate a pattern of alcoholism and poor judgment resulting from it.

Medical and rehabilitation bills

Your attorney can obtain copies of the other parent’s medical bills, which may provide evidence for treatment for alcoholism or alcohol-related conditions. If the parent ever entered a rehabilitation program, evidence of ongoing or failed treatment may also prove useful.

Credit card and bank statements

Alcoholic parents tend to spend large sums of money to feed their habits. This could come in the form of high bar tabs, large purchases at ABC stores, and other similar expenses.

Examining credit card and bank statements can substantiate a parent’s claims that the other parent has a problem.

Video footage and audio recordings

Video or audio recordings that may demonstrate alcoholism are difficult to refute. The parent may have recorded this evidence or it could have been obtained from a third-party source.

Voicemails that clearly indicate slurred speech should also be preserved and given to your attorney.

Written documentation

Has the other parent sent you a text or email describing or demonstrating his or her drinking behaviors? Perhaps the other parent has even admitted he or she has a problem that is affecting their parental fitness. Turn over all relevant written communications to your lawyer.

Social media evidence

It’s not uncommon for parents to post pictures or videos of themselves on social media enjoying a night out. But these posts can serve as evidence of alcoholism. Be sure to check the social media pages of the bars and restaurants that the other parent frequents. There may be evidence, such as photos or videos, posted there.

Legal Strategies for Presenting Your Case

It’s important that parents discuss with their lawyers how to prove alcohol abuse in custody cases. Working with your attorney, you can develop legal strategies that may include:

  • Discovery: Discovery is the formal process of requesting and exchanging relevant documents and information between parties. Your lawyer can use various discovery tools to acquire the evidence needed.
  • Calling expert witnesses: Expert witnesses are individuals with specialized knowledge, like substance abuse counselors or medical professionals. These individuals can testify as to the scientific evidence that establishes the other parent is indeed an alcoholic.
  • Evaluating the evidence and arguments: You may believe you have strong proof of the other parent’s alcoholism and how it impacts the child, but not all evidence is of equal value. It must be admissible and compelling, so your attorney may discard weaker pieces of evidence in favor of stronger ones.

Using Alcohol Monitoring as Evidence

Some parents are forced to submit to compliance programs like Soberlink, an alcohol monitoring device that keeps tabs on a person’s alcohol consumption. Soberlink can be used to monitor a parent’s blood alcohol content, including during times when the parent is visiting with the child. This provides court-admissible evidence that can be used to prove alcohol abuse.

A parent may also be required to take periodic drug and alcohol tests. If you wish to request this, you should understand that a parent who repeatedly tests negative for alcohol may be able to refute your claims of alcoholism. Discuss with your lawyer the best way to use alcohol monitoring in your case.

Addressing Counterclaims and Disproving Allegations

If you’ve accused the other parent of alcohol abuse, you may face similar allegations if you’ve ever consumed alcohol. The other parent could exaggerate your drinking to deflect blame from their own. Be honest with your attorney about how much you drink. Your lawyer may suggest that you submit to testing or provide other proof to refute these counterclaims.

Meanwhile, if you find yourself accused of alcohol abuse, there are several ways to contest the claims:

  • Submit to voluntary alcohol testing
  • Provide affirmative evidence of sobriety
  • Prove successful participation in rehabilitation
  • Challenge the strength, credibility, or admissibility of the other parent’s evidence

Modifying Child Custody Agreements

Based on the nature of a parent’s alcoholism, the court may issue temporary or long-term modifications of custody to protect the child. Some custody cases involve emergency circumstances, like child abuse, child neglect, or a parent who repeatedly drives while intoxicated with the child in the car. In such cases, the judge could give you temporary sole custody until a final modification order is made.

If there are no emergency conditions, you may still seek modification of the previous custody order. You will need to provide proof that a material change in circumstances affecting the child’s best interests has occurred since the last order was entered. For example, you may argue that the parent’s alcohol consumption and judgment have gotten worse, resulting in harm to the child.

Contact Elliott Frazier for Help With Your Custody Case

A parent abusing alcohol can be distressing. So can baseless claims made against you by a parent who is trying to tarnish your reputation before the judge. Regardless of whether you are accusing the other parent of alcoholism or you are the one being accused, it’s imperative that you retain experienced legal representation. Elliott Frazier — Family, Personal Injury, & Car Accident Attorneys, LLC has you covered. Call us today.

Elliot Frazier Logo

We look forward to serving you!

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.