You’re nothing special. Sounds harsh, right? Well, for a sliver of Virginia’s men, that’s actually good news. If you’re an alcoholic, you might think you are a rare misfire, a faulty launch. You are neither, since roughly 5.9 percent of Virginians and U.S. adults said they were “heavy drinkers,” according to the 2017 State of Virginia Epidemiological Profile: Alcohol (the most recently available data). How does being one of roughly half a million Virginians affect your family law case?
Baby, You’re One in Half a Million
We’re not playing fast and loose with the numbers here. Virginia’s population is 8,536,000, of which 5.9 percent, or 503,624 self-reported as “heavy drinkers.” And while Alcoholics Anonymous obviously cannot publish member numbers, it does have more than 60,000 meeting groups in the United States. If you are an alcoholic in recovery, help is all around you.
As with any addiction, confession cleanses the soul and sets you on your way to redemption. Admitting you have an alcohol problem is a start, and even though prices will be paid, your outlook for a better life improves by coming clean to spouse, children, attorneys, judges, and other legal and medical professionals.
We’re not sugar-coating things here. The price you pay for struggling with alcohol, with exorcising the demons hiding inside bottles, could be paid not in coin but in kids. Not in cash but in court orders.
You’ve Got To Own It
Alcoholism invites self-delusion. If you know you are an alcoholic but choose not to own your behavior, do not expect the courts to join you in your private fantasyland.
Embarrassing as it may be, an admission of alcoholism, a willingness to state that you are a recovering alcoholic, will improve your chances with a judge.
Expect to have to prove yourself, by providing the meeting times and locations of your AA meetings, the name of your sponsor, and a police record if you were ever arrested for alcohol-related offenses.
Alcoholics and Divorce
Alcoholism is not a direct fault in Virginia divorce. If you are an alcoholic and support your addiction through illegal acts, then those acts can become fault grounds for divorce.
If you have no children, your alcoholism may be the reason your spouse wants a separation and divorce. You may be better off leaving the relationship to concentrate on getting right with yourself and your world. An uncontested, no-fault divorce may be an ideal motivator to seeking treatment.
Without children, you and your spouse have only to arrange property settlement, and in that your alcoholism may play into your divorcing spouse’s hands. Do not attempt to hide the problem from your own attorney. Your spouse may use your alcoholism as justification for taking far more than an equitable share of real estate, retirement income, bank accounts, and personal property:
- “The less stuff he has that he could sell to buy booze, the better off he will be. I’m really doing him a favor.”
Forewarned, your attorney can develop a strategy to preserve your financial safety net, help you hold onto property, and get on with your life.
Alcoholics and Child Custody
Virginia’s Circuit Courts have a legal obligation to safeguard Virginia’s children. A judge will keep the “best interests of the child” uppermost in all phases of separation, divorce, and custody hearings.
Awareness that one of the litigants in a custody case is an alcoholic will shade proceedings. This is not done as a personal attack. The Circuit Court judge has a moral and legal duty to ensure a child is safe.
Negative reports about your drinking will tilt the odds against you. A report coming to the court from a guardian ad litem, therapist, school counselor, or other legal or medical professional holds a lot of sway with a judge.
If the report indicates you were drinking to excess in front of your children, falling asleep or passing out, a judge has an array of options:
- Temporarily suspend parenting time
- Mandate supervised parenting time
- Permanently end parenting time
- Reassign custody
- Terminate parental rights
If you have a serious substance abuse issue (alcohol or drugs), expect interventions from Child Protective Services (CPS). They, too, are legally mandated to step in if indications (from anywhere and anyone) are that your children are endangered, abused, or neglected. Their reports also hold sway with Virginia’s judges.
On the other hand, if you present as a recovering alcoholic who has never displayed any inappropriate behavior around your children, a judge may (may) weigh your parental rights and give you a much-needed chance. Work with your attorney to make sure you do not ruin your one chance. Virginia’s courts are famously protective of Virginia’s children.
If you are an alcoholic dealing with a family law matter, your best ally is not a bottle. It is an experienced family law attorney.
We’re Family Law Attorneys Representing Men Exclusively
We at The Firm For Men know we are all only human. Come to us with your concerns, flaws, and worries. We can help with just about any family law matter. Our sole purpose is to represent Virginia’s men — good and bad, struggling and strong — zealously, assertively, and tirelessly. Contact us today or telephone our offices at (757) 383-9184.