Custody cases can be an incredibly stressful experience for everyone involved. When Alcohol Use Disorder is present, emotions may run even higher, as child safety and parenting time are put into question – and that’s where Family Law attorneys come in. Specializing in legal strategies that promote peace of mind, Family Law attorneys build the groundwork for families to have productive and positive relationships that last, even after mediation is complete. Here are just a few of the ways Family Law professionals maximize peace of mind during custody cases.
As a Family Law professional, you only know as much as your client tells you, so it’s crucial to ask the right questions. Having a detailed picture of your client’s living situation, daily routine, relationships and custody goals will help you develop the right strategy for their unique needs while avoiding any surprises in court. “It all depends on the client’s goals and circumstances,” says Rebecca Armstrong, a divorce attorney at Texas-based Family Law firm KoonsFuller. “I’m meeting with them from the very beginning of the consultation and asking them what their goals are and how to achieve that. If their goal is to spend equal time with their 10-year-old daughter, then I’m asking questions like, ‘Is that something that you and your wife agreed to?’ and ‘Do you think she’s likely to agree to that?’ According to Armstrong, fact-finding should cover every angle, including any prior history of substance abuse: “I’ve had cases where I’ve asked, ‘What’s the worst thing your spouse is going to say about you?’ And the response might be, ‘That I drink too much.’ This may lead to questions like, ‘Has anyone else said you drink too much? How much do you drink? Have you ever blacked out? Do you have a DWI history?’” Uncovering the answers to these questions will ensure all parties are as prepared as possible, contributing to a more streamlined, productive and stress-free litigation process.
During Family Law cases, clients may feel guided by emotion rather than reason and, as a result, they may not always make decisions that are, ultimately, in the family’s best interests. When faced with this dilemma, Armstrong recommends using logic and structure to promote peace of mind: “As their attorney, I’m helping clients make a decision that is smart, reasonable and informed. That means providing information on possible outcomes and guiding them through next steps. At the end of the day, you have to ask, ‘Will this decision help my client accomplish their overall goals?’” Based on emotion, a client may want to bring up a petty argument or an issue that is irrelevant to the case, however, Family Law attorneys must know the difference between a relevant point and a waste of time and money. Armstrong also notes that legal teams need to be sensitive to the fact that clients may feel extremely powerless during this time, especially if the custody litigation was not their choice: “A lot of the time, I see my clients feeling overwhelmed or anxious because they feel out of control. However, when you explain the process, it alleviates some anxiety because they think, ‘Okay I do have input. I have some decision-making power; this isn’t completely outside of my control and I can make informed decisions. I can do this.’”
If Alcohol Use Disorder is involved in custody cases, Family Law attorneys have a short window of time to prove their client’s commitment to sobriety. In these situations, remote alcohol monitoring is an excellent way to quickly and accurately compile daily sobriety reports for court use. To support accountability for sobriety, Armstrong recommends Soberlink to her clients: “After a child custody case is filed, the hearing to determine visitation rights is typically held just 14 days later. It’s a really big deal and it’s held within a really short period of time. So, if there’s an alcohol abuse allegation, I’m telling my client to stop drinking. I’m telling them to get Soberlink and test as many times as they possibly can. Then, we have the results to share in court that show the drinking is not a problem.” To strengthen the case, Armstrong supplements alcohol monitoring with a substance abuse or alcohol abuse evaluation from a psychologist and possibly even a past blood alcohol test, which can test for binge drinking as far back as two weeks. With documented proof of sobriety, both the courts and the monitored client’s family can rest assured that the child is in a safe environment during parenting time.
In custody cases that involve alleged alcohol abuse achieving peace of mind offers multiple benefits, for the courts, for the parents and, most importantly, for the child. Using devices like Soberlink, clients accused of alcohol abuse can experience peace of mind in proving their sobriety; parents and courts can feel confident that children are protected, and children can thrive in a safe environment. Once peace of mind is established, families can start to rebuild the trust needed for healthy, positive relationships. “Obviously, people in a custody litigation are in a divorce because something has happened in the relationship and trust is broken,” says Armstrong. “Soberlink is a way to say, ‘No matter what has happened in our relationship, you can trust me again and you don’t have a reason to doubt me.’ When you can build upon that trust and reach a settlement, everyone can move on to a better quality of life.”