The Covid pandemic created never before seen challenges. What many people may not know is that since then, we have seen an increase in substance abuse issues. This can include alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs. There are a variety of symptoms that can occur when someone is actively using and addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. The person often will experience extreme mood swings, aggression, and emotional stress. Often times, they will also spend money excessively. Whether or not those issues are a contributing factor to the divorce, they certainly present unique challenges during the divorce. Once a person is addicted to a substance, it becomes the highest priority over everything else for them. For that reason alone, it becomes problematic to entrust an addict with the life of a child.
The Court’s paramount concern will always be in the child’s best interest. Thus, Family Court judges are cautious when exposing children to a parent whose alleged substance use is interfering with their daily life activities. In order to ascertain whether the parent is, in fact, using, there are various tests that can be performed. A hair follicle test is a reliable way of determining the specifics of the substance abuse. There are different variations of the hair follicle test, some of which are covered by insurance.
Once the Court can ascertain whether abuse is present, there are options to consider depending on the severity of the addiction. The Court may suspend parenting time all together. However, sometimes even when there is a parent working to overcome substance abuse issues, a suspension of parenting time is not warranted. Under those circumstances, the Court will often times utilize supervised visitation as a means of ensuring that the children get to see the parent while also ensuring that the children are safe. If the parties cannot agree upon a third party supervisor, there are options available to hire a supervisor to assist in that capacity.
Sometimes, if alcohol is the issue and not other drugs, the parties can utilize a Soberlink device. Soberlink devices are able to detect alcohol in the breath sample and can, therefore, be a means of ensuring that the party does not consume alcohol prior to or during the scheduled parenting time. It has become a more widely used tool in cases of alcohol abuse.
If the other parent of your children is suffering from substance abuse issues, there are a variety of resources and tools to assist with your custody dispute. If you are suffering from substance abuse issues and want to ensure that you maintain a relationship with your children, it is important to utilize the resources available to keep them safe.