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How those in long-term recovery can seek more parental rights

If you're a recovering alcoholic whose drinking resulted in limited child custody or visitation rights, you're not alone. You are also not alone if you're finding it difficult to get greater access to your kids. Your co-parent may be hesitant to let you have more time with them -- particularly unsupervised. Therefore, you're going to have to go to court.

There are still a lot of prejudices out there against people who have battled alcohol and/or drug addiction. Family court judges aren't immune to these prejudices. So how do you make your case that you're in long-term recovery and that your children will be safe and well-cared for if allowed to spend time with you?

It's important to document your recovery. It's likely not enough that you spent a month or two in a rehab facility. A judge will want to see that you're following an aftercare plan. This may include a 12-step program, a therapist or sober coach and possibly anti-craving medications.

It's also crucial to show that you understand the risk factors and triggers that could cause you to drink again. You should have tools in place to prevent a relapse, even it's just having a sponsor or other people in your 12-step program you can call.

There are alcohol monitoring systems that parents can agree to use regularly or just during their parenting time. These tools, which are similar to Breathalyzer devices, measure and report a person's blood alcohol level. Agreeing to use a system like this can provide your co-parent and the court with additional assurance that you're remaining sober -- at least around your kids. They can also be an added incentive not to drink when the stresses of parenting test your sobriety.

You may want to ask a physician or therapist who is knowledgeable about alcohol and addiction to testify that long-term recovery is a reality for many people. They may be able to testify to your own recovery.

If you're seeking more time with your kids over the objections of your co-parent -- whether greater unsupervised visitation or shared custody -- it's essential to work with your family law attorney to plan your strategy. It may not happen as quickly as you'd like, but incremental increases in access to your kids can lead to more parental rights and involvement in their lives as your recovery continues.

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