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Old 11-23-2009, 01:52 AM
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1st Time Caller

I've just found SR while searching for a legal description for alcoholism. I'm 5 months sober, the most since I was a teenager (how depressing- I'm 48), and feeling very good about myself.

I recently completed a mandated recovery program of 12 weeks out-patient lectures and group sessions, which I actually enjoyed. I've been going to 5-10 AA meetings weekly since discovering that program 2 months ago, and recently acquired a sponsor. I'm glad for the knowledge and help I've been finding in these meetings, though it is slightly uncomfortable in one sense: I'm a contented atheist with no desire to change my ideology. I am attempting to work the steps using my heretofore untouched "higher self", or higher intellect, my rational brain rather than my insecure, scared, resentful, defiant, adolescent personality. Wish me luck!

The reason I was looking for a legal description to the disease of alcoholism, is my wife as decided to divorce me, and is going to use my drinking as a means of taking the children for herself. My two girls, ages 5 and 8, have been the most important part of my life, and I've been their primary caretaker for years. As a self-employed carpentry and general contractor, my flexible schedule has allowed me to be as close to a "stay at home dad" as one can get and still bring in a substantial income. Currently I work full-time in my shop on our property, though I haven't been making any money lately. My wife works a retail position which keeps her away until almost bedtime every day she works, so I've been feeding and taking care of the girls most evenings for years.

I'm trying to find some legal descriptions that discuss varying degrees of alcoholism. I have been psychologically dependent, but never physically dependent on alcohol. My wife is going to try to portray me as a no-good drunk; I call myself a "high functioning alcoholic", because of the following reasons, among others:
1) I've been a successful businessman all these years, never missing a day of work, never loosing a customer or failing to complete a contract because of my drinking.
2) I've never been on a bender, never had blackouts, never trashed my friendships, never been violent or committed crimes other than the driving kind, never neglected or abused my spouse or children while drinking.
3) I have been able to abstain completely from drinking any alcohol for the past 5 months without any noticeable physical symptoms, and never incurred any negative health effects from drinking, other than the occasional hangover and a beer belly that has disappeared since quitting.
4) For the 2 years prior to my recent DUII, (the reason for my wifeís decision to divorce me), I had been practicing "controlled drinking", in which I never had alcohol in the house, drank no more than 2 to 3 times per week, (2 to 3 drinks per episode), and rarely achieved actual drunkenness during this 2 year period. There were two instances, over 3 years ago, in which our child-care provider called my wife to come pick up the children, rather than let me take them, but I donít know for sure if I was over the legal limit. I was irritable and withdrawn towards my wife whenever I drank, but I blamed it more on my shame at having drank, and on her controlling, intolerant attitude, rather than on the alcohol. (Did I mention I'm an alcoholic?)

My wife is an excellent mother, just as I have been an excellent father for all these years. I have never harmed my sweet young children, nor have I ever neglected or abused them. I can respect her decision to divorce me, but not her desire to keep me from getting joint custody and being the father I deserve to be. Anyone out there have some experience or suggestions on how to protect myself from her and her lawyer? I'm unable to afford one myself, and am looking for any help I can get. Thanx, WT

Last edited by WagginTail; 11-23-2009 at 01:58 AM. Reason: Tab for paragraph breaks
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Old 11-23-2009, 02:29 AM
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Hi WagginTail

I think you should explore every avenue you can to get professional legal advice.
Welcome to SR

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Old 11-23-2009, 02:40 AM
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My advice would be to try and become friends again with your ex - this will become easier with time. Explain to her your present sobriety status and your concerns and try and come to some sort of agreement. Lawyers will be necessary, but they really can compound the difficulties.
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Old 11-23-2009, 02:49 AM
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I have no experience with this because I'm trying to get my kids to move out of the house! Hee, okay, little joke there.

But, I can tell you what a guy in my AA home group told us about his divorce and child custody experience. He went through a divorce after he had quit drinking. During that time, he went to an outpatient rehab clinic and had breathalyzer tests on a frequent basis. I am not sure how this was arranged, and I don't know how often. But, he presented the breathalyzer data during the custody hearing.

As far as the legal description, I seriously doubt it exists. Standing in a court room and describing yourself as a high functioning alcoholic and not a drunk....is not a good scenario. Most people, including myself, an aloholic, may think: that is splitting hairs. The judge also may only want to hear "sobriety" and not the difference between various grades of drinking....

Going back to that fellow I was talking about: his advice was: "Keep your side of the street clean, stay sober and do what's right".
If a judge sees that you are doing that and staying sober, your actions will speak for you.
Today, about three years after the divorce/custody case, this guy has been granted the shared custody he was trying for, and has the restored trust of his wife, who occasionally asks him to take care of the kids even when it is on her watch.
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Old 11-23-2009, 02:57 AM
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I agree with littlefish.

My thoughts and prayers are with you.
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Old 11-23-2009, 06:00 AM
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Joint custody is almost never awarded unless both parties agree to the terms. What is typically awarded is custody to one or the other with a visitation agreement. This visitation agreement can be as stringent as supervised visitation or as liberal as just like having joint custody. I don't think you have anything to worry about as far as very liberal visitation at the very least. You may even fight for custody if you choose. Unless there has been some documented evidence of "problems" with your drinking and how it has or might affect the children I would think the drinking past would not be as much to worry about as you might imaging. Even if there were some sort of documented problem, you do have 5 months of sobriety, which does much to counter previous problems. It is a shame you and the children have to endure this, but it happens in 50% of the marriages today, so you are definately not the only one going through this. Just keep doing what you are doing (staying sober) and unfortunately seek legal help. It is also unfortunate that in divorce one or the other or both spouses tug on the children because of bitterness when in the guise of their best interest. Take care.
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Old 11-23-2009, 06:45 AM
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I am glad to hear that you are working hard on your recovery.

I think that getting a good lawyer would be in your best interests.
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Old 11-23-2009, 07:01 AM
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Well there's not a "legal" description of alcoholism, and the "disease" of alcoholism even existing is still often debated. I think what it comes down to is what has resulted as a consequence of said 'alcoholism' in your life.. missed responsibilities, lack of dependability, inappropriate intoxication, etc etc (not that this is you, just a few things that can happen as a result of drinking too much), not to mention risk of DUI and other horrible decisions.

I think your actions need to prove your ability to be a good father, and I also agree that the best tactic in protecting yourself legally will be a good lawyer. I hae also heard that joint custody is very rare.. often there needs to be a primary custodial parent, and a parent who gets visitation, as the kids have a lot more stability that way (in most cases), but I have no idea what will happen in your case.

Every alcoholic I know has called themselves a 'high functioning alcoholic'.. ah the oxymoron of addiction..

From what you describe, I think regardless of the kiddos involved, your best bet is to pursue recovery and lifelong abstinence from alcohol, you've put yourself (and potentially the kids, if even the babysitter wouldn't release them to your care) in some scary situations whilst drinking, and thank goodness that's all over with!!

I wish you well on your road to recovery.
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Old 11-23-2009, 07:42 AM
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Welcome to SR.
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Old 11-23-2009, 08:52 AM
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WagginTail you have recieved some good advice, just for amplifiction let me throw out these suggestions.

1. Keep your recovery your number one priority, you put one single thing ahead of your sobriety and it may very well be the second thing you lose after you lose your sobriety.

2. Get a lawyer and follow his advise, I would suggest you find a lawyer that is in AA, there are far more then you can imagine, ask him for a referal to a lawyer who has dealt with these types of matters before.

Congrats on the 5 months of sobriety, keep doing what you have been doing, ask your sponsor if he can refer you either to a lawyer or to some one who has been through a divorce involving child custody that may be able to give you a lead on a good lawyer.

Please do not gamble on trying to do this your self.

One very important thing to keep in mind just in case the custody of your children does not go the way you hope it will................... DO NOT DRINK OVER IT!!!!!!!!

Child custody can be taken back to court any time and many times, if you do lose custody due to your drinking in the past, you can go back to court and show that you have been sober even though you lost custody due to your past.

One other very important thing to keep in mind is the courts do not automatically give full custody to the mother like they did in the past, they either give joint custody to both parents or they give custody to the better parent.

The fact that you have been the primary care giver for your children for years speaks volumes in your favor! One thing I am sure your lawyer will tell you is to remain flexable in regards to custody, do not turn down joint custody if it is offered.

If you get joint custody keep meticulous records of every time your wife ask you to keep the kids during times she should have them, keep records of when she brings them home late or picks them up late.

Make sure you pick the kids up on time and return them on time. Remember that she will always be their mother no matter what and you will always be thier dad.

Do not use the children as weapons and for the sake of your children DO NOT bad mouth thier mother!!!

I was very lucky when my first wife and I divorced, I was granted primary care giver and my ex paid child support! Now here is the greatest thing for the kids, I never bad mouthed my EX to them and she never bad mouthed me to them!
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Old 11-23-2009, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Tazman53 View Post
I would suggest you find a lawyer that is in AA, there are far more then you can imagine
Taz, I had a lawyer that is in AA, he was probably the least competent of the bunch, in my experience.

I wouldn't recommend any person in AA for professional services unless they came with very good referrals from people that I trusted, in the program or not.
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Old 11-23-2009, 10:07 AM
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John if you notice I did say for a referal, the one I know well, is excellent when it comes to drug and alcohol cases, but he does not handle divorce, he is an excellent source for referals on other matters. I agree about getting some one with good referals, especially when it comes to matters like what WagginTail is going through right now.

I know several people in AA who have used the lawyer I refered to with awesome results, one of them was looking at 20-25 hard time for presciption drug violation and his wife was lookiing at 5 years. They have both been clean and sober for over 5 years, they were both on supervised probation for the first 5 years, he will be on probation for another 5 years maybe more.
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Old 11-23-2009, 10:24 AM
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My advice is along with everyone elses, get an attorney. Good luck with everything, I'm sure you will need it. Welcome to SR!!
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Old 11-23-2009, 01:37 PM
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At the risk of overdoing the topic, I have appeared in court because I am a conservator/guardian for a mentally ill brother.
The protocol for court proceedings as I have experienced them allows for very little speechmaking. The judge asks questions and you or your lawyer answer them very briefly. In court you would have to summarize your second paragraph with it's four points to maybe one or two sentences.
Legal advice, and I know I am repeating everyone else here, but it is worth repeating...is extremely advisable.
Your lawyer will prepare you for the court: help you prepare what to say and how to answer the questions: that is invaluable help.
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Old 11-23-2009, 09:41 PM
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I'm (fairly) recently divorced. I understand that you will have a hard time affording a lawyer.... I hate to tell you this, but if she has a lawyer and you don't, you are DONE, dude.

Find a way to get a lawyer. The one thing I can say about the legal system as far as my experience goes is that it doesn't make any kind of sense from a layman's point of view. Get a lawyer. Seriously.

-Goat
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Old 11-25-2009, 11:57 PM
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Thanx so much for your insights. I would be fine if the court gave me fair visitation rights. In our mediation attempt last week, she offered only one afternoon visit per week, and four hours every Sunday, no overnights. I hope the judge will see things differently. Anyway, what you wrote has made me feel better. WT
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Old 11-26-2009, 12:17 AM
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Thanx for your insights. Should I find a way to pay for it, I'll follow your suggestions when securing a lawyer. The court will not force joint custody unless both parties agree, (I don't expect she will), but I would be fine if I get a reasonable and fair visitation schedule. I'll use your advise to document all interaction with her, and to never use the children against her. What you wrote has made me feel better, and I needed that. WT
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Old 11-26-2009, 12:28 AM
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Thanx. Wish I could, but for the immediate custody hearing, there's no way I can afford a lawyer. I have, however, filed a counter-motion which included a lengthy affidavit that the judge will have to read, and hopefully direct his questioning along the path I've opened up. I'll be bringing character witnesses, documentation to show my dedication and devotion to my children, which should at least make the Judge aware that my wife's accusations are based on anger and emotion, not reality. I'm getting suggestions and editing help from a relative in CA who is an attorney, (real estate, not divorce), and she's helping to guide my efforts. Wish me luck, and Happy Sober Holliday! WT
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