As a custody lawyer, paramount consideration must always be given to the best interests of the child. This must include not only the obvious need to be loved and nurtured, but entrusted to parents who place the child’s welfare above their own. Where addiction is part of the calculus, and in this case, alcoholism, otherwise well-meaning parents are blinded to the impact their addiction has on their ability to parent their children.
Addiction knows no class distinction. In my practice, distinguished professionals including doctors, lawyers, teachers, police officers, entrepreneurs, and parents who remain at home to “parent,” are in denial and oblivious to the realities of their behavior and the resultant impact on their children and spouses. Tragically, in our country, 26.8 million children are exposed to alcoholism in their homes. Psychologists who specialize in child custody are often retained. Extensive alcohol evaluation testing is conducted. Both out-patient and in-patient rehabilitation facilities can be employed for the maximum allowable insurance benefits, which are often inadequate to treat addictions that can span decades
Unfortunately, drinking is an acceptable part of our culture and is often encouraged as a rite of passage. Our college campuses are rife with stories of alcohol poisoning and 21 for 21! Therefore, as custody lawyers, alcoholism and addiction are part and parcel of our practice. We all know it is about taking ownership—and that is easier said than done until it involves your own child. After years of practice and experiencing every conceivable mode of intervention including, but not limited to, random urine testing, ignition interlock devices, ankle bracelet devices that do not report blood alcohol levels in real-time, AA meetings with sponsors, and antibuse, I have become pragmatic. I have found that the most successful approach to monitor the alcohol-dependent spouse and ensure the protection of a child is a system called Soberlink.
Nothing is foolproof but this is close to it. Soberlink is a healthcare technology company out of California. Their monitoring system is increasingly used as a means to confirm sobriety in real time, during parenting time. The monitored individual and concerned parties (attorneys for the parties, psychologists, and even the court) select a testing schedule that corresponds with parenting time. The monitored parent must submit to the breathalyzer tests and adaptive facial recognition technology. Missed scheduled tests are reported, and real-time test notifications are provided to the monitored parent. Unlimited daily testing is also available. Real-time email and text alerts when alcohol is detected are issued. Automated weekly summary reports of test results with modification of the monitoring program are available, as are many other features. I know this sounds like a paid advertisement, but it works. Where the alcohol-dependent parent is motivated by the concern that a determination could be made by the court that the parent is incapable of providing adequate parental care for their child unless they are abstinent, I have witnessed real-time compliance. Soberlink is worth checking out at firstname.lastname@example.org
Candace R. Scott, LLC
Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney
Member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
Collaborative Law, Mediation, and Arbitration Services