Problem Husband, Potentially Alcoholic, Left Child Home Alone

Updated on August 18, 2012
M.I. asks from New York, NY
11 answers

My 5 year old daughter recently told me that my husband left her home alone. She told me that he said to her not to open the door to any strangers and left her in the apartment by herself. I don't know for how long, but I find that there is no excuse for this. While he was recently out of town, I sent him an email letting him know that our daughter told me this and that I am extremely concerned. I also told our sitter, my best friend and my Mom about how concerned and angry I am over this.
Since he came back from his trip, he has been acting as if I am the one who did something wrong. Barely talking to me and cold. This is fine with me since we have been having problems before this anyway, but I did not know that he had put our daughter in danger like this.
We've had a terrible couple of years during which time he has begun drinking by himself (not drunk, but drinking for no reason), he has gained a lot of weight and last year had a rage episode towards me. We went to therapy for about three months before Christmas and things had improved briefly, but after the holidays it all deteriorated again. I had learned to cope by concentrating on my work and avoiding him as much as possible. Things had been relatively tolerable until my daughter told me this about being left alone.
I am now seriously considering divorce on the grounds of him endangering the welfare of a child. He has not addressed the email that I sent him nor spoken to me about it, but he admitted that it was true to our sitter as she scolded him about it

I have started going to Al-Anon (just my first meeting yesterday) and I understand the concept of working on myself first and leave the alcoholic alone. For the last few days, I have not left my daughter alone with him, but don't know how long I can keep that up.
Sorry for the long email. I guess I don't have a specific question except to all of you out there who have been in any similar situations, particularly with someone who may be an alcoholic. How do you work it out during divorce in terms of visitation with an alcoholic father, especially when the child is so young? Would the above situagtion be enough to severely limit his visitation rights? Will my daughter hate me in the long run if I do this? If I wait it out, would this affect any divorce verdict against him or would it be best that I submit divorce papers imediately on the basis of the finding that he left my daughter home alone?
Thank you all for any advice or any simple messages of encouragement.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Before you call an attorney, have you thought about an intervention. I don't mean you doing it. I mean talking to someone at your al-anon meeting and getting something set-up. They will have the resources available and know the steps to take.

The problem is, that he may get joint custody and could potentially leave your daughter alone without your knowledge. It's hard to say what a judge could do so I would try to see if he can get a handle on the drinking first.

Good luck! and great that you're going to Al-Anon! You need to change the cycle. Alcoholics revolve their life around the alcohol. Everyone in their life revolves around the alcoholic. You're taking a step back and that takes a lot of courage.

Hugs for you and your daughter

6 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I don't have any experience in this situation.

I just want to offer support.

You've taken the first step. Definitely continue to use Al-Anon and and other resources available to you. You already realize YOU can't fix him, he has to want to in that regard you are way ahead of the curve.

Plan things out in your head, go consult an attorney about the questions you have re divorce and visitation. Take steps to make sure your daughter is kept safe. Is a separation possible, where you could take steps for counseling for yourselves? Perhaps suggesting that (after seeing the lawyer) will wake him up. Is he willing to go back to counseling?

I do worry about your "rage" comment...if he is abusive that puts a whole different twist on the situation

Good luck to you, keep us posted. Keep yourself and your daughter safe.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

You are in a hard spot. But FIRST things first, protect your child. If he was wreckless enough to leave her alone, lord only knows what he is doing that could be dangerous.
I would report this to the police. Not that they can do anything about it, but they can document it so that if you do file for a divorce it is reported. This will work in your favor to demand supervised visitation.
I came from an alcoholic home, and what I hated my mom for was NOT leaving. The fighting, the screaming, the child should have to deal with these things.
I have never heard a story of a couple staying together for the kids turning out well. If you are unhappy, if he's turning to drinking instead of working on your marriage then get out.
I would contact an attorney right away. That doesnt mean you have to file. You can get a free consultation and have a better idea of what you are facing. Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

Next time something like this happens, you need to call the police instead of family and the babysitter. That way, there is a police report on file against your husband. If the police show up, maybe it will shock your husband into reality and make him straighten up.

Meanwhile, you need to get yourself to a divorce and family lawyer and start the process of protecting you and your daughter financially. Get all your ducks in a row. If you don't, he will leave you high and dry as soon as he figures out that you are going to divorce him.

Good luck,

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

While you're rying to decide, start a journal. Make notes of all dates/times and situations where you feel your hubby has endangered your daughter. That will come in handy later because you may be able to get supervised visitation for him until he completes a recovery program. Also, you may be able to get some sort of order that he has to test before he can visit with your daughter and if he has any alcohol in his system, then no visit. Of course, that doesn't stop him from drinking after he picks her up.

Your daughter will not late you. She may be upset at first because she truly will not understand, but as she gets older, she'll figure it out and she will eventually be grateful to you and love you all the more for protecting her. Childhood is a very fleeting time in terms of a lifetime - she may be angry for a bit during her childhood, but will understand in her adulthood.

Good luck to you and yours.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Please consider this........

Leaving a 5 year old alone in the apartment once, drinking alone and having one "Rage episode" is nowhere NEAR grounds for him to lose custody or have mandatory supervised visitations or even be given so much as a backwards glance from a judge.

I agree with you that these are all unacceptable.

However, if you divorce him right now, given what you have told us, the MINIMUM he would get is joint legal custoy with visitation every other weekend and overnight on Wednesdays (unless he voluntarily agreed to less). He potentially could get 50/50 visitation if requested.

Should that happen....... who will supervise her when you are no longer allowed a legal say in what happens when she is with him? Please know that once you are divorced you have absolutely no say in how he rasies her, how much he drinks, what women he brings to the apartment for overnight visits. You will not be able to deny him legally awarded visitation because you think there is no excuse for his behavior or because he was drunk or because he left her alone. If you can prove that she is alone in his home you can call the police and they will take her from him, maybe. But if it appears you are trying to get him in trouble or pitting your daughter against him by saying "call mommy if daddy leaves" that, unfortunately, will reflect badly ON YOU. It's not fair. You are in what I consider to be the most unfortunate of domestic situations. To be married to someone you don't trust with your child. I've been there and it's not fun.

Please know that divorce actually SOLVES NOTHING, especially when you have children. It simply opens another can of worms somewhere else and trades one set of problems for another. I'm not saying you shouldn't get a divorce. But I'm not sure you have the right expectation for what will happen if you divorce him. Please speak with an attorney so they can give you a more clear picture of what HIS legal rights are.

Why do you think he "may" be an alcoholic? Because he drinks alone? Being an alcoholic doesn't jeapordize custody. You would have to be able to PROVE repeated abusive interactions with him before it would affect any sort of custodial arrangement.

I'm glad you are going to Al-anon. I encourage you to seek counseling for yourself, if your husband will not go with you. He has to want to change.

Remember this also - you can divorce him and he will no longer be your husband. But he will be your daughter's father forever. Fortunately or Unfortunately.

There is no easy answer here. And I wish the 3 of you luck as you navigate this path.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

Please, please document this issue about him leaving a small child, a 5 year old, alone in the home. Write down what your child said, write down the fact that the babysitter corroborated the story and date it all.

Document incidents when he's been violent toward you, whether physically or verbally violent or both. Call the police every time he gets verbally violent or raises a hand to either of you. Tell your neighbors that if they hear shouting from your house to please call 911. Tell them of the situation, especially the one about him leaving your daughter alone, so that they can help you keep an eye out in case you HAVE to leave your daughter with him. Tell them to please call you immediately if it happens and then you can call 911 on him and also get home to your daughter.

Tell family and friends what's going on. The more people that are aware, the better so that if something happens to you or your daughter (heaven forbid) then the police know who to take into custody first. They'll have an automatic suspect.

If you're questioning whether he's an alcoholic, one doesn't have to be drunk to be drinking too much. Drinking too often and to numb the emotions are enough to "count." If you feel it's too much, then it's a problem. His rage and deflections are a sign of it.

If you file for divorce immediately, and file for full custody with supervised visitation, make certain that you include just how dangerous his behavior is. That's why documentation is so important. A court will not want your daughter to be in danger when she's there, or risk her life.

Your daughter WILL NOT hate you. Remember, she told you what happened because she didn't feel safe. She knew he was wrong. Even at five years old, she knew. And he's behaving as if he's been wronged. He's a danger. He's full of anger and he's not safe as a parent. It's not illegal to be an alcoholic, but his behavior is sure as hell illegal. It's also unpredictable.

Personally, in your situation, I wouldn't wait it out. I'd get a lawyer NOW. I'd file an emergency petition for custody, I forget at the moment what it's called but the lovely ladies here will certainly remember.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

It sounds like you are unhappy and your husband is depressed for whatever reason. As his partner I encourage you to find out why he is depressed. For the sake of your child I hope you continue to get counseling and work WITH your husband to create a healthy environment for her - however if you can't do that it might be better for her if you are apart but as others have mentioned leaving her alone/drinking is not why you would be getting divorced. NY is now a no-fault divorce state so you can just file.

My question for you... Why did you send him an email about this? Why did you not sit down with him face to face and ask him what happened? You guys have a lot work to go through to repair your clearly damaged relationship. If you are done then more power to you. Your daughter needs realitivly healthy, happy parents however she can get them. She'll understand eventually. But I do encourage you to open the lines of communication with your husband, find out what happened, and in general TALK to each other.
Best of luck to your family.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

It looks like you've gotten a wide array of responses here. I just wanted to comment that I appreciate a number of points that were made by different responsders: For instance, the point that your husband sounds depressed. It may be that lacking any other tools to deal with it he's turning to alcohol to numb those feelings. You also are clearly unhappy (reasonably so) and not sure what to do. I am also glad that you are turning to Al-Anon for support. Professional one-on-one counseling might be very helpful for you as well.

I agree that a formal intervention involving the right, trained counselor to orchestrate it and help him seek help if he's willing would be a very good step. It may be a valuable wake up call with enough structure to help him see his way out of his downward spiral. You may also be wise to speak to a reputable attorney (not just a cheap one) to just get important info you would need in order to plan for yourself and your daughter if the intervention approach did not work.

Regarding the safety of your daughter, I do agree that this HAS to be your number one priority. Based on what you wrote, I cannot tell whether the danger is truly imminent; only you can really know what the dangers are and how immediate they may be. Speak to an attorney about this right away (like today/tomorrow), and until then, avoid having your husband take responsibility for her.

I would only caution you that once you involve police, things can quickly go in a whole different direction than you anticipate and you may not have any control over that. Which is NOT to say that you should not contact the police; just understand how it may impact your situation. I think if you can find solutions that involve LESS drama, not MORE drama, then you, your daughter and your husband may all be better off for it--whether you can reconcile as a family or not. But, of course, IF YOU JUDGE THAT THE DANGER IS SUCH THAT POLICE NEED TO BE INVOLVED, THEN BY ALL MEANS, DO IT!!

You are in a difficult situation, no doubt. His judgement appears wildly compromised (I assume he was not always this way...). You are both unhappy and your daughter is being negatively affected. Pay attention to your instincts, but seek the right professional guidance, whatever the financial cost may be, when taking actions and planning for you and your daughter's future. Wishing you all the best as you move forward.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I had to think about this for a while then form this answer.

I do wonder about the length of time he was gone. Children do not often gauge time like an adult. They think 5 minutes is an hour, especially at 5 years of age.

I also think that if he did come home in just a moment she may not have even noticed if she was watching TV or focused on something.

I do think you need to find out as much as you can about his actions that day before you file for divorce based on grounds of something that might have been just a few minutes. I

I have walked to the neighbors house to use the phone when mine broke and I wanted to call hubby to stop and get a cheap new one. He was alone maybe 5-8 minutes.

I strongly do believe that kids need to learn responsibility and to learn to do home alone time. However, this does sound questionable.

Do try to trace his footsteps through debit card and bank statements so that you can see if he ran down to the corner for a gallon of milk or if he ran to the liquor store for a gallon of booze.

That way if you do use this as grounds for divorce you will have grounds for supervising visitation. I will advise you that paying someone out of your own pocket to supervise your own family's visitation can mount the costs and become quite expensive. The court will not pay for it nor will they address it. If he is allowed visitation then making it supervised would be another court hearing and more costs even then. You would be responsible for providing the person to supervise the visitation too.

If you are seriously this unhappy then you need to file for divorce on your own merits and not that he may or may not have left her for more than a few minutes.

If your marriage is that bad then try living separate for a while.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

How do you work it out during divorce in terms of visitation with an alcoholic father, especially when the child is so young? Alcoholic or not, he is still her father. Perhaps he will go into a program and get help. Until then, perhaps they will order his visitations be with another responsible adult. Your attorney should have some options and the judge will make the final decision (like it or not).

Would the above situagtion be enough to severely limit his visitation rights? Possibly, a judge will make that decision, but it can't stop you from asking for it.

Will my daughter hate me in the long run if I do this? Possibly. Kids often have unconditional love.

If I wait it out, would this affect any divorce verdict against him or would it be best that I submit divorce papers imediately on the basis of the finding that he left my daughter home alone? The longer you wait, the more you make it okay. If divorce is your answer then move forward. Otherwise, if you still love him, you can use the tough love and put him in treatment. It could come down to loving him, yet letting him go. If he were your child, would you divorce him for a drinking problem? Should your daughter? It is a touch decision that should be thought through before making any hasty decisions.

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