Q&A - Is it legal for my ex-wife to allow my children to drink wine when they stay with her?

Q: My ex-wife is French and when the children stay with her she allows them to drink wine with their dinner. When I spoke to my son on the telephone last week he sounded quite tipsy! My children are only 11 and 12 years old. Is she breaking the law?

A: I assume your ex still lives in the UK. Under UK law it is illegal to sell alcohol to someone under 18 anywhere or for an adult to buy or attempt to buy alcohol on behalf of someone under 18. It is also illegal for someone under 18 to buy alcohol, attempt to buy alcohol, be sold alcohol, or drink alcohol in licensed premises. Similarly it is against the law for an adult to buy alcohol for someone under 18 for consumption on licensed premises, and to give children alcohol if they are under five.

However, it is not a criminal offence for a child aged 5 to 16 to drink alcohol at home or on other private premises!

Obviously, alcohol can have serious health consequences and you may wish to consider making an application to the Court to ask them to make an Order preventing your ex -wife from giving alcohol to the children, particularly if you feel it is having a negative impact upon their wellbeing. The Court would take into account various factors when deciding what Order to make, but the paramount concern would be the welfare of the children and what is in their best interests.

Anyone thinking about giving alcohol to their children should think carefully about the damage they could cause in the short term and long term and of course they may be seen to be causing harm or risk of harm to their child that could potentially lead to social services intervention and removal of the child.

(Article published 22/05/2017)

Alison Peters

Alison Peters


A Partner in our Family and Matrimonial department in Oswestry

Nathan Wright, Partner at GHP Legal

Nathan Wright


A Partner specialising in Family and Matrimonial Law