Alcoholism and Child Conservatorship

The best interest of the child is the primary consideration in determining conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.

Those words are repeated so often by local family court judges in Conroe and Houston that they eventually take on a legendary status. If you or your ex-spouse is behaving or used to behave in a way that allows a judge to question if being with you or your ex-spouse is in the best interest of the child then your access to your child may be restricted, severely in some cases.

Today we are going to look at the case of Richard Walters and his divorce from Deborah Walters. One of the issues in the Walters case was custody of their five year old son, Christopher.

Richard’s divorce attorney presented evidence at trial that:

  1. Deborah was an alcoholic before and during the marriage;
  2. Deborah concealed her alcohol consumption during the marriage;
  3. On occasion Deborah’s behavior after alcohol consumption has placed Christopher in a potentially harmful position.
    The divorce court granted Richard sole managing conservatorship of Christopher based on these facts. The trial Court also granted Deborah possessory conservatorship with the following possession order: “IT IS ORDERED AND DECREED that Deborah Walters, as a possessory conservator, shall have possession of the child at all times mutually agreed between the parties.” Unless Richard was in agreement with Deborah, she would not be able to see Christopher.

Deborah’s divorce lawer appealed the trial court’s order on several points. As part of her challenge she presented evidence on the following points:

  1. Despite her alcoholism she has maintained employment with the same employer for over ten years.
  2. She has no criminal record.
  3. She attends counseling and A.A. meetings and claimed to be sober for almost a year.
  4. Her counselor testified there was no evidence she had been drinking during that time.
  5. Her counselor testified in his opinion she is not a danger to Christopher.

Was the divorce court correct in allowing Deborah as possessory conservator to only see Christopher when Richard agreed to visitation? Richard desired this order because the evidence showed that Deborah has placed Christopher at risk in the past and that he must have control so that if he sees abuse or neglect occurring he can take action immediately to protect Christopher. The appeals court decided to reverse the possession order because it was not specific as to the times when Deborah can see Christopher. The trial court’s order gave so much discretion to Richard that he could completely deny Deborah access to Christopher. The appeals court pointed out that supervised access may be a proper alternative.

Will you be able to get the same results in your case? There are no guarantees when a case goes to trial and a judge or jury makes the final decision. Your results may be very similar or very different from the Walters case based on how your Woodlands Divorce Attorney presents your case and how the judge or jury interprets the facts. Speak with a Montgomery County Divorce Attorney today if you are facing child custody or conservatorship issues with an ex-spouse who continues to have or previously had a substance abuse problem.

The Woodlands Divorce Resource is here to help you with your divorce, child custody, or other family law issue in Montgomery County or Harris County. Many of our visitors come from the areas of Conroe, Oak Ridge North, Cut and Shoot, and other communities in the Montgomery County area or Houston and North Harris County. If you need legal assistance with your family law issue speak with a Conroe Divorce Lawyer today

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