In Family Law, there are two sides to every story. When interpersonal disputes between spouses result in irreconcilable differences, the judge must rule on the third side of the story to the best of their ability: the truth. As part of this responsibility, judges must determine whether any evidence that the parties present is illegal, irrelevant and/or inadmissible in court and ultimately determine the child’s best interests. Due to the sensitive and emotional nature of many Family Law cases, it’s not uncommon for false allegations of alcohol abuse to make their way into the courtroom. When this occurs, both Family Law attorneys and their clients must understand the rules of evidence and present indisputable proof to the court that refutes these false claims.
Understanding the Rules of Evidence
To ensure that only admissible evidence is used in court, there are three rules of evidence that should be reviewed. This way, any necessary objections that prevent evidence from being used without a proper foundation can be made before it’s too late.2 These rules include relevancy, personal knowledge, and hearsay.1
- Relevancy: All evidence must be deemed relevant to prove or disprove a disputed fact in court. When children are involved, claims of alcohol abuse are relevant versus a division of property case with no children.2
- Personal Knowledge: Under various state evidence codes, including California, two types of witnesses exist – expert witnesses, such as child custody evaluators and forensic psychologists, or lay witnesses. Lay witnesses include family members, friends or others that personally know the defendant, not someone who simply knows of the defendant and heard something through hearsay.1
- Hearsay: Evidence of a statement made by someone other than the testifying witness stated as truth.3 Like personal knowledge, this includes instances where someone details information that they heard about the situation or individual in-person, without witnessing it themselves.
Gathering Evidence to Refute False Accusations
Tangible evidence that is admissible in family court can include testimonies, documents, photos, and videos. For cases involving accusations of substance abuse, drug and alcohol tests can be utilized and are often required as evidence. For Cleveland-based Family Law attorney Marshall Wolf, when allegations of alcohol abuse arise in his cases, the first action he takes is signing his client up for Soberlink remote alcohol monitoring.
“When the allegation comes up, immediately get onto Soberlink as fast as you can so that by the time a hearing comes up, you have at least some degree of protection,” Wolf advises. With facial recognition and plan options to meet each client’s need, Soberlink automatically documents proof of sobriety in real-time and provides detailed testing activity reports. These reports have been validated and utilized in Family Law courts across the United States for nearly a decade. Whenever allegations of alcohol abuse are present in Wolf’s Family Law cases, which occur approximately two to three times a year, Soberlink alcohol monitoring is the tool that he turns to.
In one case where allegations of alcohol and domestic abuse were made against his client, Wolf recalls that, “We immediately put our client on Soberlink. By the time that case came up for trial, we had so many test results that it affected the credibility of the complaining witness to the point that our client was acquitted.” With Soberlink’s detailed print out of over 300 test results, Wolf was able to protect his client from allegations of alcohol abuse and prevent his client from facing the parental alienation proposed by the plaintiff. Instead, Wolf’s client was granted shared custody of the young child. Wolf highlighted Soberlink’s ability to detect any minor changes in testing and give a prompt to retest to prove sobriety.
When to Utilize Soberlink Alcohol Monitoring
If a client cannot immediately get onto Soberlink prior to trial, it can also be presented in court. Wolf’s law partner voluntarily recommended Soberlink to demonstrate her client’s sobriety, and not only was the request accepted, but the court was very appreciative. One of the most effective ways attorneys can approach this when alcohol abuse allegations are made is by stating, “We understand the allegation, your Honor, but for the best interest of the child, we are willing to utilize Soberlink to show that the allegation is untrue.”
Monitoring can include Level 1, in which testing is only required during parenting time, and Level 2, which requires daily testing. Each level is designed to make parenting time safer with discreet and convenient alcohol testing and can be chosen based on clients’ unique situations. As clients are typically willing to take a variety of measures in order to maintain custody of their children, Wolf considered it very telling when clients oppose Soberlink as an option.
To demonstrate sobriety 24/7 while going through court proceedings, the Level 2 monitoring may be considered to prove consistent sobriety – with or without the child present, until the custody agreement concludes. When Wolf’s client was granted shared custody of the child, their request to vacate the order requiring Soberlink in the final hearing was granted. In his partner’s case, Soberlink is still being utilized as a safety net to ensure that the plaintiff cannot falsely accuse them of drinking again. “If they do, then those allegations hold no weight,” Wolf says.
To learn more about how to protect clients against allegations of alcohol abuse in your Family Law cases, please take a look at our resource page and contact us with any questions you may have: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Soberlink supports accountability for sobriety through a comprehensive alcohol monitoring system. Combining a breathalyzer with wireless connectivity, the portable design and technology includes facial recognition, tamper detection and real-time reporting. Soberlink proves sobriety with reliability to foster trust and peace of mind.