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Marital and Family Law



 
Drugs and Alcohol Allegations

Drugs and Alcohol Allegations in Family Law Cases with Minor Children: Be Proactive

Many family law cases involving timesharing with minor children also involve allegations of abuse of illegal drugs or alcohol by one or both parents. Sometimes these issues are real and the children are in legitimate danger. Other times, these issues are exaggerated. In the worst type of case, one parent is manufacturing a false accusation to gain an unfair advantage in the case or perhaps just to hurt the other party. Judges are familiar with all of these situations and are (i) going to put the children's safety first, and (ii) inclined to work with a parent who may (or may not) have alcohol or drug problems so long as that parent is honest about the issue. The most important thing to realize is that all judges want both parents to have strong and healthy relationships with their children. In this regard, if a judge thinks that a parent has a problem with drugs or alcohol and those problems directly impact the children, then the judge will have to consider implementing certain protections. Below is a list of some of the questions and answers we often encounter:

Q: What if I have (or think I may have) a problem with drugs or alcohol?

A: Seek a professional evaluation and if you do have a problem... immediately get help. 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, treatment programs and therapy can all be a great source of recovery. Don't be afraid to get sober. You can do it. Even if you begin your case with a problem, judges generally will not hold it against you once you get help and get better.

Q: How does this impact my case?

A: You've probably heard it before, but the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. The judges know this to be a fact. If the judge believes you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, then your first order of business is to prove to the judge that you are willing to address that issue and that you are going into recovery and maintaining sobriety. This goes a long way in creating confidence in the judge that you are not going to have any issues caring for your children. If you have a problem, the worst thing you can do is try to hide it from the court or lie about it. Once the judge finds out the truth, your credibility will be shot and it will be that much harder to fix the issue in the future. Stay sober and get into a legitimate random drug and alcohol screening program. That way you have actual proof to show the judge that you are sober and in recovery.

Q: What if I don't have a problem with drugs or alcohol and the other parent is accusing me of having one?

A: Abstain from using any illegal drugs and consume alcohol very moderately during your case. Immediately get into a legitimate random drug and alcohol screening program so you can prove you don't have a problem.

Q: How does this impact my case?

A: A judge will not fault you for taking steps to disprove an inaccurate allegation. While this does cost you time and money, having screening reports that show you don't actually have a problem will dispose of the issue immediately and you can move on to the real merits of your case. It can also show the judge that the parent who accused you was either severely mistaken or lying. Either way, proving that the other parent was wrong will help you in regard to your parenting and timesharing case.

Q: What if the other parent (and or the Judge) doesn't want me to completely abstain from drinking, but does not want me drink when I am around my kids? How can I possibly prove that?

A: A few years ago there was no good solution. However, there exist today remote breathalyzer-like devices that have facial recognition. They can be programmed to randomly request a remote breathalyzer test while you are with your kids. You discreetly get tested instantly wherever you are. The device then sends the results immediately to a remote location that records whether or not you have been drinking. If the results are negative, this proves to the judge that you can be trusted to keep your word. This helps the judge believe that you are trustworthy and not a risk to your kids during your time with them.

Q: If I don't have a problem, why would I do any of the above testing at all?

A: There are many answers, but the simplest one is this: it is less expensive and easiest to prove the truth to the judge with these type of negative testing results. This is because the judge is restricted by the rules of evidence. These rules can preclude you from bringing in other types of proof in a situation that is most often "he said, she said." Make it easy on the judge and yourself; address the issue head on with random drug screening or remote breathalyzer testing. That way you can get to the real issues related to your children and timesharing.

Q: What if the opposing party has a problem with drugs and alcohol?

A: We seek a court order that the opposing party must abstain from using drugs and/or alcohol and must enroll in a legitimate random drug and alcohol and drug screening program. Additionally, a judge may even order that the parent complete a treatment program or attend Alcoholics Anonymous. If that parent cannot maintain abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol, then we can seek appropriate restrictions and or constraints on timesharing.

Q: What if the other parent then proves that they can maintain abstinence and/or has gotten the problem under control?

A: Then the judge will likely ease them into a less restrictive timesharing schedule over time.

Almost every lawyer at our firm has kids of their own. Therefore, we understand first hand how important it is to keep our clients' children safe and for them to have the appropriate time with their parents. In situations where the allegations of drug and alcohol abuse are against our clients, we have consistently helped our clients maintain, regain and create relationships with their minor children (and achieve the appropriate timesharing). In situations where the other parent has a problem with drugs or alcohol, we have similarly helped our clients prove it to the judge and thereby have been able to put safeguards in place to make sure that the children have a safe relationship with the other parent.

Issues related to drugs and alcohol abuse are difficult and sometimes tricky, but not insurmountable. No matter which side of the issue you are on, don't give up, we can help.



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