During or after a divorce in California, a parent may be concerned about a child’s safety with the other parent. A parent who has been the child’s main caregiver may also be worried about the ability of the other parent to care for the child.
This was the case for a man who was worried about his wife’s drinking habits. His concern was that she would drink and drive with their 7-year-old son in the car. He also said that she had cut off contact with him, and he could not reach her to find out how their son was even though he had been the main caregiver.
Parents should document any incidents of conflict as well as any time they spend taking the child to medical appointments or other tasks. A parent can get emergency custody if the child is in danger with the other parent, but it can be difficult to prove alcoholism is a danger. The court might require a police report or something similar. A neighbor or child care provider could also provide witness accounts. However, even if the parent’s drinking habits are established, it may not be enough. For example, in one case, a court ruled that although the father drank nightly, there was no evidence that he did so when the child was with him.
A family law court usually tries to ensure that the child is able to have a relationship with both parents. One parent’s inexperience with being the primary caregiver is usually not considered reason enough to deny the parent access. However, if it is proven that the parent has a problem with drugs or alcohol and that problem interferes with the parent’s ability to care for the child, the parent’s access may be limited to supervised visitation or blocked altogether.