“My ex is technically sober, but he’s still an addict and acts like one. What should I do?”
Co-Parenting Challenges with a Recovering Addict
Parenting after divorce can be complex, especially when one parent struggles with alcoholism. We answered that question recently from a parent who wondered how to get support for the court for an ex who is considered an addict, whether to drugs or alcohol.
A particularly challenging scenario arises when dealing with a ‘dry drunk’ parent who may not be under the influence but still presents with the behaviors of an addict. Understanding what ‘dry drunk’ means and how to handle parenting time in such situations is crucial for the well-being of the children involved. What’s important to remember is that the court only cares what is directly related to the statute that deals with substance abuse.
“If the court determines that a parent has abused drugs or alcohol or has been convicted of any drug offense under title 13, chapter 34 or any violation of section 28-1381, 28-1382 or 28-1383 within twelve months before the petition or the request for legal decision-making or parenting time is filed, there is a rebuttable presumption that sole or joint legal decision-making by that parent is not in the child’s best interests.”
Understanding ‘Dry Drunk’ Syndrome
The term ‘dry drunk’ refers to a person who, while abstaining from alcohol, still exhibits behaviors and attitudes associated with their addiction. This can include mood swings, irritability, resentment, and a tendency to engage in the same patterns of thinking and reacting as they did while drinking. Essentially, it’s sobriety without the emotional and psychological recovery often associated with successful alcoholism treatment.
Challenges in Co-Parenting with a ‘Dry Drunk’
Co-parenting with an addict or ‘dry drunk’ can be taxing. The unpredictability and emotional volatility associated with this condition can create a tense and sometimes unstable environment for children even if the ex is not “using.” The sober parent might struggle with trust issues, fearing that the ‘dry drunk’ behavior could escalate or lead to relapse.
Strategies for Managing Parenting Time
- Prioritize Children’s Safety: The primary concern should always be the safety and emotional well-being of the children. If the ‘dry drunk’ parent’s behavior becomes threatening or harmful, it may be necessary to adjust custody arrangements.
- Open Communication: Maintain open lines of communication with the other parent. Discuss concerns calmly and focus on the needs of the children.
- Legal Consultation: If there are serious concerns about the children’s well-being, consult a family law attorney. They can provide guidance on modifying custody agreements or setting conditions for parenting time.
- Support Systems: Encourage the ‘dry drunk’ parent to seek support, whether through therapy, support groups, or other recovery resources. This not only aids their recovery but also promotes a healthier co-parenting environment.
- Educate and Prepare: Educate yourself about addiction and recovery. Prepare to handle difficult situations and have a plan in place for emergencies.
The time to ask the court for help in changing parenting time or legal decision-making is when:
- Facts support its determination that the parent abused drugs or alcohol or was convicted of the offense.
- Findings that the legal decision-making or parenting time arrangement ordered by the court appropriately protects the child.
The addicted parent may refute the other parent’s charges by submitting to random drug testing by an approved facility for six months, plus demonstrate the absence of any drug offense convictions during the previous five years.
The situation is challenging and may require legal assistance. Co-parenting with an addict requires patience, but most importantly, the needs and safety of the children are foremost.
By staying informed and seeking professional guidance, parents can navigate these complexities and create a stable, supportive environment for their children.