Alcohol Testing in Child Custody Cases: Leveraging Technology for Fair Alcohol Monitoring and Rebuilding Trust

Alcohol Testing in Child Custody Cases: Leveraging Technology for Fair Alcohol Monitoring and Rebuilding Trust
November 13, 2023
|   updated:
April 17, 2024

Child custody and visitation disputes often elicit strong emotional reactions from those involved. Sharing parenting responsibilities with a former partner can raise concerns about the child's well-being, but these worries can intensify significantly when the ex-partner has a history of alcohol or drug abuse, leading to heightened fears for the child's safety.

A young girl eating cereal

What Is in the Child’s Best Interests?

Family Court Judges and domestic relations professionals know the paramount principle in child custody cases requires the rulings to be in the best interest of the child or children involved. Determining the fitness of a parent is a matter the Court must consider, even in the absence of an allegation of unfitness.

Is the child’s environment appropriate for their physical and emotional well-being? Are there any issues that create doubt about one of the parties’ abilities to provide a safe and healthy place for their children?

Any child custody case in which one parent alleges that the other party has a substance abuse problem guarantees that the Court will do two things: a) review any evidence supporting the allegation of drug or alcohol abuse, and, if credible evidence exists, b) restrict the custody and visitation of the parent using drugs or alcohol until the Court is satisfied with that parent's demonstration of continued sobriety. This could involve drug and alcohol testing, counseling, or other conditions.

A man getting a blood alcohol test

Traditional Methods of Alcohol Monitoring

The traditional procedure followed by many American Family Court Judges involved requiring any party with a substance abuse issue to undergo some form of treatment, including frequent drug and alcohol testing. Testing in the traditional way would require the parent to submit to a random test at a laboratory and to pay for the testing procedures themselves.

Through their treatment period, the parent’s visitation with their children would be supervised, either by a trusted family member or by a professional social worker, often a stranger to both the parent and the child. These supervised visits would continue for six or nine months because no person struggling with a substance abuse issue was thought to be able to recover in less time.

Court-ordered alcohol testing or drug testing was also a part of the traditional regimen required of any party under scrutiny for their alcohol abuse or drug abuse. The only tools then available to Family Courts dealing with divorcing couples with an alcohol abuse issue required third parties to oversee visitation and for Judges to receive treatment reports about the addicted parent’s progress.

Woman staring into the distance with a worried expression

Why Traditional Alcohol Monitoring Methods Complicated Recovery

The dynamics that emerge from Courts using traditional methods of monitoring parents prone to alcohol abuse were highly negative for the struggling alcohol abuser. First, appearing on random dates and times for a drug test or an alcohol test interfered with their employment and may even have threatened their job.

Testing in child custody cases involves more from a test subject than one might think. For those unfamiliar with the drug and alcohol testing procedures, the test usually requires a urine sample to be provided in the presence of a lab tech or other observer to ensure the sample is natural. That intrusion into the person's privacy represented yet one more humiliation that was detrimental to the success of the person's emotional health.

Then, each time they had visitation with their child(ren), they often had a stranger looking over their shoulder, inhibiting the parent and children from being themselves. The feeling of being policed and distrusted built a growing resentment in the parents trying to recover from substance abuse problems.

As the months passed by, feeling the suspicion, the judgment, and the sense of shame added to their stress and too often added to their relapsing.

Hand reaching for Soberlink Devices while also typing on a laptop

Technology Solved Many Alcohol Monitoring Problems in Divorce Cases

Technological innovation led to the development of remote alcohol monitoring methods that are easy-to-use and cost-effective to obtain and operate. However, not all technology is created equal. Devices like those developed by Soberlink record real-time data documenting any alcohol use by the monitored parent on a regularly agreed-upon schedule.

Soberlink’s secure, tamper-proof remote breathalyzer can be operated as few or as many times as is appropriate in each child custody case. The objective reliability of the alcohol monitoring technology provides benefits to all the parties involved in custody cases.

Family Court Judges no longer need to rely on a parent’s self-reporting or testimony from potentially biased witnesses to determine whether the parent’s alcohol abuse continues or has ceased. The financial costs of employing professional social workers to monitor one party's sobriety before and during visitation are eliminated. The Concerned Party, knowing their former partner's alcohol abuse is being accurately and reliably monitored, has peace of mind.

Eliminating the doubt about a parent’s sobriety or alcohol abuse relieves the recovering parent from the humiliation they likely felt during the supervised visitation. And because the data is court-admissible and regularly recorded, the parent formerly abusing alcohol may be able to reunite with their child or children sooner than with traditional alcohol monitoring methods.

Soberlink's advanced technology, including facial recognition, and professional support set a new standard for remote alcohol testing in terms of performance, functionality, and efficiency. However, drug tests still necessitate laboratory involvement, which means that the limitations once associated with alcohol testing persist for individuals who need drug testing.

Email inbox with a compliant test alert email open

Remote Alcohol Monitoring Technology Can Prove Sobriety If Falsely Accused of Alcohol Abuse

It’s easy to assume that alcohol monitoring technology and other alcohol and drug testing programs are procedures that are only requested by Concerned Parties or ordered by Courts over the objection of the person subject to the testing.

But, sometimes, an even darker reality presents itself, and measures to mitigate the challenge must be applied.

Divorce and custody litigation are typically unpleasant legal processes. Unfortunately, it’s not unheard of that some divorcing parents are so filled with pain or resentment that they may falsely accuse the other party of abusing drugs or alcohol to gain an advantage in a child custody dispute.  

Making matters worse, a Family Law Professional involved in child custody cases, such as the child’s attorney or a "neutral" social worker, could align with these allegations, prematurely coming to a conclusion before the gathering of solid test evidence or otherwise to support a claim against the abuser of ongoing alcohol misuse. This, too, is not unheard of.

Before the development and easy availability of remote alcohol testing devices, those false allegations were difficult to disprove. How would someone prove they were not drinking at any time of the day or night? Constant lab testing would be impractical and unaffordable.

Many lawyers across the nation have encouraged their clients to voluntarily begin a daily schedule using portable remote alcohol testing devices to create incontrovertible evidence that the allegations were fabricated for an advantage in the divorce litigation.

A person who truly abused alcohol to a significant degree could never simply stop using alcohol and produce clean readings every day for months on end. Only someone who did not suffer from a drug abuse or alcohol abuse problem could consistently provide negative alcohol readings from the start.

Alcohol Monitoring Secures Custody and Visitation

While divorce litigation and custody disputes often end within a year or two, the parties' relationship with each other and their children will continue at least until the youngest reaches adulthood. Alcohol dependency and drug addiction can make recovery a lifelong challenge. Situations can arise that revive one party’s belief that the other is drinking again.

Soberlink’s comprehensive alcohol monitoring system can be supported after the divorce or child custody litigation is finished. The technology is a source of reliable data that can be trusted to serve as a basis for accurate judgments.

Unfounded fears of relapse can be put to rest. In other cases, justified suspicion of a party’s returning to alcohol abuse can be validated.

How Does a Remote Alcohol Test Work in a Child Custody Case?

The operation of Soberlink’s alcohol testing device is simple and easy. The object of the exercise is to generate accurate, reliable data that can be reviewed by Judges hearing child custody cases. The data consists of readings of the alcohol content of the person's breath. The tests are performed on a regular schedule that serves the interest of the Court and fits into the monitored parent’s lifestyle. Child custody cases can be resolved more quickly and with much more confidence when the party's sobriety can be so definitively demonstrated.

The value is in the simplicity and integrity of the testing procedure. Data is transmitted instantly to specified contacts. The recipient can review the data in an easy-to-understand, color-coded format to let them digest the material quickly and clearly understand the information.

Soberlink's technology checks every box, improving the handling of alcohol issues in child custody cases and supporting accountability while ensuring accurate monitoring of sobriety to rebuild trust.

Learn More About Soberlink

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