If One Parent Has an Alcohol Problem But I Want Them Involved In My Child’s Life, How Can I Protect My Child With a Court Order?

The truth is that there are various ways that an order can be crafted to protect the children and still allow them to have an ongoing relationship with their parent that is struggling with alcohol issues, depending on the severity of the issues.  The solution is normally a combination of protections during periods of possession, testing and/or treatment requirements, and injunctions that depend upon the specific facts of the case.

The court can require or the parties can agree that the struggling parent submit to an alcohol assessment.  Other possible requirements include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. rehabilitation, inpatient and/or outpatient;
  2. breathalyzer testing, before, during, and/or after periods of possession;
  3. ignition interlock and breathalyzer devices; and/or
  4. attending AA meetings

It is important to remember, however, that the options available will depend on the facts of each case, as the court will not require breathalyzer devices unless there is a proven concern.

As far as periods of possession go, the highest level of protection would be supervised possession and access.  Period of possession can be supervised by whatever party the parents can agree to and/or a court-approved visitation program.  It is important to remember that the parties would have to agree to the supervision or the party requesting that the periods of possession be supervised would have to have enough evidence to convince the court that the safety and well-being of the child require that periods of possession be supervised.  If the problem is not so severe to require all possession and access be supervised, periods of possession could also be limited in time or frequency until the parent completes treatment.  Typically, such a possession order will step up to less restrictive periods or possession in phases and into a standard possession either over time or upon completion of different portions of treatment (Ex: Step One- Supervised possession for a few hours every other weekend, Step Two- Unsupervised possession for a few hours every other weekend, Step Three- one overnight every other weekend, Step Four – standard possession order).

Injunctions are additional protections that could be added to the order that require the struggling parent to abstain from alcohol during possession and for a certain period before and after periods of possession.  Additionally, if appropriate, the court could prohibit the struggling parent from transporting the child in a car.

Finally, a provision can be included that in the event of a relapse by the struggling parent, that parent begins again at Step One of the possession schedule to avoid the necessity of having to return to court every time there is a relapse in the future.

For more information, or to discuss what possible options would apply in your specific case, please consult an attorney to discuss the issue.

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