By Chris Beck | Soberlink, AAML NJ Bronze Sponsor
Nearly every day, matrimonial law practitioners work with people whose most intimate relationships have deteriorated to a point where parties’ emotions alternate from disappointment to anger and from sorrow to perhaps fear. This is acutely evident when clients have to navigate matters involving child custody and visitation issues – a course made that much more difficult when one parent struggles with alcohol abuse.
One of the most difficult hurdles to overcome in any Family Law proceeding is reaching a parenting-time agreement when one of the parties has a history of misusing alcohol. Settling custodial and visitation issues is further complicated when one parent’s distrust of the other is fueled by their fear that alcohol misuse will endanger the child during unsupervised visits.
Whether you represent the concerned party who is fearful for their child’s safety during a co-parent’s visitation or you represent the parent struggling with alcohol misuse, all hope – of your client experiencing peace of mind or regaining trust – is not lost. Despite what may appear to be the crux of an impasse during settlement negotiations or litigation, a mutually convenient and proven solution that offers streamlined litigation, peace of mind, and improved child safety is available – remote alcohol monitoring.
This article will discuss:
- Overcoming the Challenge of Assuring the Child’s Continued Contact with Both Parents
- Accepting Responsibility and Rebuilding Trust
- Remote Alcohol Monitoring as Best Evidence
Ensuring the Child Maintains Continued Contact with Both Parents
As outlined by New Jersey law, it is crucial in custody and alcohol cases that children maintain a healthy relationship with both parents:
“Declares that it is in the public policy of this State to assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage and that it is in the public interest to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing..." (N.J. Stat. § 9:2-4).
When alcohol abuse is introduced as an issue in a divorce or child custody dispute, the matter is investigated and not easily brushed aside. Family Court Judges, social workers, guardians-ad-litem, and psychologists involved in the case will focus on the alcohol abuse allegations as a genuine concern that will dominate the court’s assessment of what co-parenting arrangement is in the best interest of the child.
The traditional remedy for these situations was a requirement that visitation with a noncustodial parent be supervised. It was thought that only with the oversight of another adult can the child be assured of the visiting parent’s sobriety. However, arranging for a visit to be supervised has proven to cause significant stress on the child’s parents and court’s child welfare support apparatus.
Unless an agency official supervised the visitation, some families had no trusted family member to provide adequate supervision. Therefore, some visits would need to be canceled or rescheduled if the designated observer was unavailable. If a state employee or contracted therapist were assigned to provide visit supervision, the visits were necessarily short, infrequent, and often expensive.
Fortunately, Soberlink, a comprehensive real-time remote alcohol monitoring system, was designed for co-parenting agreements involving alcohol abuse. Providing court-admissible, documented proof of sobriety during parenting time, Soberlink is trusted by Family Law practitioners to promote child safety and help address concerns of alcohol misuse before or during visitation. Family Court Judges and domestic litigation parties across the country use Soberlink’s wireless alcohol testing devices to monitor alcohol abstinence, assuring the children’s continued contact with both parents.
If your client struggles with alcohol addiction or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), the social barriers and stigma attached to the chronic illness can be painfully difficult to overcome. Moreover, concerned parties, family members, opposing counsel, and court personnel may doubt or distrust your client’s alleged sobriety. Soberlink allows your client to demonstrate their abstinence from alcohol while maintaining a relationship with their children and offering peace of mind to loved ones.
As Soberlink supports accountability for sobriety, a client’s willingness to use a Soberlink remote breathalyzer can also be pivotal in helping clients accept responsibility for their actions and make changes in their child’s best interests.
For parents committed to abstaining from alcohol and rebuilding trust with their co-parent, Soberlink offers two monitoring programs for improved co-parenting agreements. Level 1: Parenting Time Only is designed with flexibility in mind, offering monitoring only during parenting time with schedules managed between both parties. Alternately, Level 2: Daily Testing is consistent monitoring, seven days a week, with schedules managed by Soberlink.
When trust has been broken, and child safety is in jeopardy, Soberlink is best utilized when a client begins their monitoring journey on Level 2, completely abstaining from alcohol use. Once a Level 2 client who is testing several times a day demonstrates consistent compliance, addiction professionals suggest stepping down to Level 1, where monitoring is only conducted during parenting time.
The Family Court and Legal Community’s New Best Evidence – Remote Alcohol Monitoring
Beyond providing court-admissible evidence and offering relief to concerned parties, Soberlink’s comprehensive alcohol monitoring system, which combines a professional-grade breathalyzer with wireless connectivity to send results in real-time, also incorporates tamper detection, adaptive facial recognition, and Advanced Reporting capabilities to ensure the integrity of each test. The system’s intuitive design has positioned Soberlink as the go-to solution for Family Law professionals looking to improve child safety and prove their client’s sobriety with the highest level of reliability and accuracy.
Before systems like Soberlink revolutionized divorce litigation, witness testimony, or hearsay, was traditionally the only evidence a Family Court Judge could rely on to find facts relating to a party’s history of alcohol use. Rulings issued in a case involving one party’s alleged misuse of alcohol were based on what evidence the judge deemed most credible.
The Family Court Judge no longer must rely on witness testimony or historical records of a party’s past behavior with alcohol. Soberlink provides reliable, real-time results at whatever time intervals the Court or the parties establish, and their Advanced Reporting feature allows courts to review a person’s test results at a glance.
Informed Family Court professionals in New Jersey, Family Law attorneys, and presiding judges may find it constructive to advise litigants of the benefits of Soberlink to eliminate any guesswork or conflicting reports about a parent’s alcohol misuse in an effort to uphold the best interests of a child.