How Flexible Should Alcohol Monitoring be in a Parenting Plan?

October 28, 2020
Father Playing With Son

Allegations of alcohol abuse, whether they’re supported by a history of abuse or based on unsubstantiated concerns, are taken seriously in Family Law cases involving children. Family Court Judges and settlement lawyers turn to more than just the testimonies given by opposing parties when creating custody arrangements in the best interest of the child. Separating fact from hearsay, they turn to the global leaders in remote alcohol monitoring technology: Soberlink. Providing court-admissible evidence and adaptive facial recognition technology, Soberlink’s comprehensive system is used by thousands of Family Law Professionals and their clients as a tool that documents sobriety, provides peace of mind, and fosters child safety.

As each Family Law case varies in circumstance, Soberlink offers two levels of alcohol monitoring: Level 1, flexible testing during Parenting Time Only, and Level 2, Daily Testing, seven days a week. When developing a parenting plan, no matter what the circumstances are between each party, “The best interests and safety of the child needs to be the premier focus,” says Shayna Sanborn, a Texas-based Family Lawyer with a Master’s Degree in Social Work. If alcohol abuse is a cause for concern, alcohol monitoring is necessary to include in the parenting plan and can be easily incorporated using intuitive remote software.

What Factors Affect Alcohol Monitoring Flexibility in a Parenting Plan?

Holding Hands

After the dissolution of marriage, co-parenting with a former spouse can seem like an insurmountable task. However arduous it may be, developing a detailed parenting plan that addresses alcohol abuse issues creates a necessary foundation for the future. When choosing which Soberlink Program to incorporate, Sanborn shares factors that may directly affect alcohol monitoring flexibility:

  • Specific details of the case: If a history of alcohol abuse is present.
  • Safety of the child: If a child has been injured with a parent or has witnessed violence while in their care.
  • Success of the initial program: If a parent can maintain their sobriety and meet the established plan’s arrangements.
  • Expert recommendations: If guidance from a psychiatrist, counselor, doctor, or psychological evaluation is provided, it’s generally prioritized in the parenting plan.

Depending on the above circumstances, Sanborn’s clients choose which Soberlink program to implement. Given the fluidity of some co-parenting arrangements, the Level 1 – Parenting Time Only Program is a good option as it allows the Monitored Client to submit tests during parenting time only. Sanborn also includes a test during the eight or twelve hours before a child is in the Monitored Client’s custody to ensure there is no alcohol in their system. While this versatile schedule may compliment some families, it may not be the best option in cases involving an established history of alcohol abuse. Furthermore, it is the monitored client’s responsibility to set their own reminders to submit tests during agreed upon times. “If we have issues with clients failing to submit tests during the allotted time periods or if positive test results are ubiquitous, then we suggest the Level 2 – Daily Testing Program.,” Sanborn says.

For parents who prefer scheduled reminders managed by the Soberlink system, or in instances where complete sobriety is required, Level 2 Daily Testing is encouraged. “As far as the addiction is concerned, it can make it more difficult when a parent is drinking on their days off and sober when they’re around their child. In which case, they may be thinking about or stressing over alcohol,” Sanborn says.

Traditionally, alcohol monitoring is the missing piece to long-term sobriety because it helps establish accountability and new healthy routines. Sanborn recalls an instance in which a client successfully went through several treatment programs but encountered difficulty maintaining sobriety afterward. After starting with Soberlink’s Level 1 Parenting Time Only program, Sanborn suggested they shift to Level 2 Daily Testing, at which case, they were able to obtain sobriety. “Being held totally accountable for seven days a week, five times per day with Soberlink is what sobered them up. You can’t fake that,” Sanborn shares.

Over time, a parent’s willingness to focus on their alcohol abuse by working with a recovery coach, attending support groups, or seeking some form of extra assistance can help to slowly strengthen the sobriety journey and, therefore, increase the flexibility of alcohol monitoring in a parenting plan. A gradual decrease in alcohol monitoring can occur through a process called step-down, which can be implemented once significant progress has been recorded.

As part of Soberlink’s best practices, which were developed by a panel of industry experts, testing schedules of two to three times per day with a two-hour and fifteen-minute test window are recommended at both levels of testing for at least a year.

Who Decides the Parameters and Flexibility of Alcohol Monitoring?

Mother Daughter Carving Pumpkins

In most cases, there isn’t a singular party in charge of deciding a parenting plan’s flexibility. Instead, it’s a combination of the Concerned Party, the Monitored Client, and respective lawyers. Much of it is dependent on the lawyers being able to decide upon a schedule and parenting plan that helps maintain sobriety without punitive measures. “All four people involved are trying to strike a balance,” Sanborn shares. In other instances, decisions may have to be made by a judge in Family Court. As a way to maintain the best interests of the child, a recent Connecticut court case, Murphy v. Murphy found that it has authority to order Soberlink alcohol testing over the objections of a parent to ensure the child is safe. The best interest of the child is at the root of every decision made in Family Law, and alcohol abuse cases are no different.

“If a parent wants to consume alcohol to the extent that they are intoxicated on a daily basis, that's their choice as an adult. But when a child is involved, that's when we have an issue,” Sanborn says. “What needs to be considered in a parenting plan is the safety of the child.” Developed as a tool to allow Monitored Clients to maintain relationships with their children and Concerned Parties to have peace of mind, Soberlink helps improve co-parenting agreements where alcohol abuse is concerned. “What's beautiful about Soberlink is that we really get an idea of what people are doing from the standpoint of consuming alcohol both during and outside of the periods of possession, depending upon the schedule that is set. It has really made a huge difference in cases involving alcohol abuse, and it's a phenomenal tool for family, Family Courts, and Family Law Attorneys,” Sanborn says. To learn more about incorporating the flexibility and security of Soberlink alcohol monitoring into your or your client’s parenting plan, visit www.soberlink.com/family-law.

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