If your addiction to alcohol and/or drugs was one of the chief reasons for divorce, you’re certainly not alone. Maybe your divorce was the catalyst for going into recovery. Likely, you were granted very limited custody rights over your child. You may have been given only visitation rights – and perhaps that visitation had to be supervised.
You may have even agreed that this was the best arrangement at the time. Even if you wanted to fight it, you may have realized that would have been pointless.
A lot has changed since then. You’re now a recovering alcoholic or addict. You feel confident in your sobriety. Naturally, you want greater parental rights and you’re sure you can handle shared custody. However, it’s not that easy.
Be prepared for a challenge
Obtaining greater custody rights is certainly possible, but it’s not a fast and easy process. You’re going to have to prove yourself, whether you want to or not. Likely, you know that you’ve burned some bridges, and those bridges can’t be rebuilt overnight. If you have a history of abuse or neglect, expect things to take even longer.
Even if your co-parent is agreeable to you having greater access to your child, you’ll need to convince a judge. Expect them to be skeptical, because they’ve seen it all. Here are just a couple of things they’ll ask – so be prepared to answer — with evidence and witnesses.
How long have you been sober?
Generally, the longer a parent has been in recovery (without relapse), the greater their chances of getting more parenting rights. You can’t just leave a 90-day rehab facility and expect to get shared custody. Every judge is different, but you’ll likely need to have the better part of a year – at least – of continued sobriety.
How else has your life changed?
If you’re still hanging out with the same people you used to drink or use drugs with, it may seem like you’re not really committed to changing your life. Be prepared to talk about how your life has changed. A judge will also want to see that you’re continuing to attend meetings, see a therapist or otherwise actively working on your recovery. You may also need to agree to alcohol monitoring or random drug testing.
If you’re working to get increased custody rights, don’t go it alone. It’s important to have experienced legal guidance.