Hearsay of Alcohol Abuse in Custody Cases

Addiction is one of the top reasons that couples divorce. Other reasons include lack of partnership or intimacy, falling out of love, communication problems and not being ready for marriage. Emotions run high during a divorce for both individuals and even more so when children are involved. It is not uncommon for alcohol abuse allegations to be brought up during child custody cases. However, it is very difficult to prove the allegations as true or false, unless the individual attends court intoxicated. If no resolution is reached, these allegations can take over a case and it is one person’s words against the other which can result in hearsay accusations.

alcohol abuse allegations in child custody cases


Hearsay causes problems as the person who made the statement is typically not in the courtroom to be cross-examined. Hearsay is usually not admissible in court, but there are a few exceptions to this rule. Evidence needs to be admissible meaning that the truthfulness of a statement or fact can be proven.


In the situations where alcohol abuse allegations are present, the only people normally present to testify are the spouses. Statements can be used by friends, family members, therapists or doctors but they cannot serve as proof of alcohol abuse or intoxication without a sign or indication of the substance use and some type of evidence to support the allegation in court.


Examples of hearsay and admissible evidence are as follows:

  1. Hearsay: “I spoke with his sister, Kelly, she told me he was so intoxicated last Friday night when he had the children that he passed out while his daughter was playing in the bathtub.”
  2. Admissible Evidence: The party that is concerned cannot use Kelly’s statement as evidence. For the evidence to be admissible, Kelly should be brought into court as a witness and give her testimony of the events. Kelly could testify as to what she saw and state that “I saw him drink 12 beers and then he passed out on the floor. When I went into the bathroom, his five-year old daughter was in the bathtub.”


  1. Hearsay: A husband claims that his wife come home from a night out and cannot walk straight and is falling all over the place and slurring her words.
  2. Admissible Evidence: The husband cannot testify to the allegations that were not witnessed firsthand as any claim has to be based on actual observations. A party may not conclude that their spouse has an alcohol abuse problem, however, the spouse can testify as to what they have witnessed. The husband could testify that “I saw my wife drink to an extent that she cannot function properly 21 times over the past month, and this is how she has interacted with the children during these episodes.”


Any evidence in a case, must be relevant. So, any testimony brought in must indicate that they believe alcohol abuse is an issue and the conduct of the party is why this is believed to be an issue.


If any of the allegations of alcohol abuse seems to be credible to the court, a judge will take precautions in the best interests of the child. This could mean that supervised visitations are put in place for a period of time.


While alcohol abuse is not easy to prove or disprove, there are options such as alcohol testing that could be ordered to prove or disprove the allegations.


For more information, please see article “Hearsay in Custody Cases Involving Alcohol Abuse” by Soberlink on


The attorneys at Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates are experienced attorneys who change with the times to meet the needs of their clients. Contact the Milford, Michigan law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000 for assistance.  Or contact our new location in Alexander City, Alabama at 800-809-9414. The attorneys of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates practice law throughout Southeastern Michigan primarily including Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Genesee and Livingston counties. In Alabama Kathryn practices in primarily Tallapoosa, Lee, Macon, Chambers, Coosa and Elmore Counties.