In a spousal dispute, there are typically two sides to the story. It is up to a Family Law judge to determine whether there is any truth behind those stories. That determination includes evaluating the evidence and, when a child is involved, determining the child's best interests for purposes of child custody.
Given the sensitive and emotional nature of many Family Law cases, false accusations of alcohol abuse can sometimes make their way into the courtroom.
One of the most reliable and cost-effective ways to challenge those claims is alcohol monitoring. As discussed below, Soberlink has provided court-admissible remote alcohol monitoring technology to Family Law Professionals and the families they represent for over a decade.
Additionally, and in conjunction with alcohol testing, there are several ways to help protect a client facing false claims of alcohol misuse, discussed below.
Educate Your Client
Being falsely accused of substance abuse or alcohol abuse, especially in connection with child custody, can trigger many negative emotions—and rightfully so. But your cases are nothing without your clients—and their compliance with the rules. Ensure your clients understand the nature of the claims against them, what they need to prove, and how they need to prove it.
If your client is a parent involved in a child custody and alcohol case, help them stay clear, grounded, and focused on the goal – upholding the best interests of the child. This often starts with educating your clients on new technology and methodology available to them as they begin to navigate a new chapter of their life.
Understanding the Rules of Evidence
The evidence submitted in court can include, among other things, documents, photographs, videos, and witness testimony, including live witness testimony, deposition testimony, and sworn declarations.
There are three key rules for using evidence in court—the evidence must be relevant, based on personal knowledge, and cannot be hearsay.1 An objection should be made to exclude any evidence that violates any of those rules, as discussed below.2
The California Evidence Code defines relevant evidence as "having any tendency in reason to prove or disprove any disputed fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action."
Evidence of a parent's drinking or not drinking will determine if an accusation of substance abuse or alcohol abuse in a child custody case is true.2 Therefore, that evidence is relevant and appropriate.
On the other hand, if a spousal dispute is only about dividing property, evidence of a party's drinking may not be relevant.
Personal knowledge is a requirement for any witness testimony, whether it is from an expert witness or a lay witness.
Testimony based on personal knowledge means it is based on the witness's own perceptions—not something they heard. The witness must have directly perceived the events they are testifying about.
While an expert witness may include a child custody evaluator or a forensic psychologist, a lay witness can consist of a family member or friend who personally knows the accused. Again, the witness must be someone with direct knowledge—not someone who simply knows of the accused and/or heard something through hearsay.1
When the issue of child custody is on the line, it is imperative to establish credibility in all witnesses. That means vigorously objecting to any witnesses who do not have personal knowledge of what they are testifying about.
When a witness testifies about an out-of-court statement by someone else, that testimony constitutes hearsay when it is used to try to prove a fact.3
Like the rule of personal knowledge, the rule regarding hearsay applies to any witness testimony. The testimony must be excluded if it constitutes hearsay and does not fall within one of the several established exceptions to the hearsay rule. It is important to be familiar with those exceptions so you can use them to your advantage.
It is easy for witnesses to claim they "heard" something about the other party, especially if those witnesses are already biased against that party. When false claims of a drinking problem are made, there is no room for hearsay allegations, especially given that they are inherently inadmissible. If a statement constitutes hearsay, object right away.
The Role of Evidence in Disproving Alcohol Abuse
When a party is accused of substance abuse or alcohol abuse, a Court may first require third-party corroboration of the alleged substance abuse or alcohol abuse before even considering the allegations.
If that third-party corroboration standard has been met, the accused party should immediately consider drug and alcohol testing, which can serve as compelling evidence.
Why Soberlink Alcohol Monitoring Should Be Used in Custody and Alcohol Cases
Soberlink has helped over 200,000 people over the last decade and continues to be an effective tool for alcohol monitoring that U.S. Courts regularly rely on for evidence.
Soberlink clients use professional-grade breathalyzers to test their alcohol level. The breathalyzer reports the results in real-time to the Soberlink system, leaving no room for doubt.
When a co-parent in a child custody case is facing false claims of alcohol abuse, Soberlink is one of the most direct ways to demonstrate that the parent does not have a drinking problem.
How Soberlink Alcohol Monitoring Works
Soberlink provides a method of alcohol testing that is discreet, practical, and reliable. The testing is remote, accommodates the clients' schedules, and protects against tampering. Below are some of the specific features of Soberlink testing that make it an excellent choice for alcohol testing and improved child safety.
In the Family Law context, with a parent and child involved, there are two levels. Level 1 provides for alcohol testing during parenting time only, while Level 2 provides for daily testing. Level 2 is appropriate for more high-risk cases of alcohol abuse.
Many Soberlink clients prefer Level 1, where there is no set schedule. The monitored party and the concerned party typically agree upon testing times.
Perfect for a Remote Lifestyle
Soberlink allows you to take your alcohol-testing device wherever you go. No physical reporting. No driving. No time wasted.
The Soberlink system is compatible with iPhone and Android phones/tablets. It will transmit the results as long as there is good cell phone service.
If no cell phone service is available, Soberlink Cellular Devices will timestamp and queue the results until there is better reception. At that point, the system will automatically report the results.
If real-time reporting is a concern, your client should ensure there will be sufficient cell phone service during the reporting period.
Conducive to Ever-Changing Parenting Schedules
There are no rigid schedules to follow, allowing the clients to stay flexible and accountable.
The monitored party and the concerned party—typically the parents in a child custody case—can easily accommodate a last-minute schedule change by agreeing upon testing times.
The Client Stays in Control
When using Soberlink, the party being monitored has voluntarily agreed to monitor their drinking. With the Level 1 testing structure, there is no set schedule. Testing times are instead determined by what works with the parties' schedules.
Soberlink also protects against any tampering with its alcohol testing devices, including facial recognition. Those features allow the monitored party to remain credible.
Even if a test comes back positive, to address the possibility of a false positive, Soberlink prompts the client to retest every 15 minutes for a total of 3 hours until there is a negative test result.
Soberlink clients are given every opportunity to prove their sobriety and stay in control.
What Others Are Saying About Soberlink Alcohol Monitoring
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. This Advanced Reporting system has been validated and used as admissible evidence in Family Law Courts across the United States for over 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 he turns to.
In one case where allegations of domestic and alcohol abuse were made against his client, Wolf recalls, "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 printout 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 opposing party. Wolf's client was granted shared custody of the young child in that case.
Wolf highlighted Soberlink's ability to detect any minor changes in testing and give a prompt to retest to prove sobriety.
When To Use Soberlink Alcohol Monitoring
If a client cannot immediately begin Soberlink before trial, it can still be presented in court as an option. For example, Wolf's law partner voluntarily recommended Soberlink in court to demonstrate her client's sobriety. Not only was the request accepted, but the Court appreciated the suggestion.
An effective way to approach such a dilemma when facing allegations of alcohol abuse is to tell the Court, "We understand the allegation, your Honor, but for the best interests of the child, we are willing to utilize Soberlink to show the allegation is untrue," or words to that effect.
As clients are typically willing to take a variety of measures to maintain custody of their children, Wolf considered it very telling when clients oppose Soberlink as an option. The Level 1 and Level 2 structures are designed to make parenting time safer with discreet and convenient alcohol testing. They can be chosen based on clients' unique situations.
To demonstrate consistent sobriety while going through court proceedings, Level 2 monitoring may be considered until the custody agreement is finalized.
When Wolf's client was granted shared custody of the child, the Court granted a request to vacate the order requiring Soberlink testing through the final hearing. In his partner's case, Soberlink is still being used as a safety net to ensure the opposing party cannot falsely accuse the client of drinking again. "If they do, then those allegations hold no weight," Wolf says.
Keeping Your Client Empowered
Submitting to alcohol testing—let alone facing claims of alcohol or substance abuse—can often feel disabling. Adding the issue of child custody on top of that only makes matters worse.
That's why it's vital to keep things in perspective for your client.
Instead of seeing Soberlink as a hindrance, your client should see it as a tool of empowerment. One of the ways to do that is to highlight that Soberlink testing can create credibility and accountability, bolstering your client's character in front of a judge. It can also contradict any false claims of alcohol or substance abuse, thus undermining the credibility of the opposing party.
To learn more about how to protect clients against allegations of alcohol abuse in your Family Law cases, please visit our resource page, and contact us with any questions you may have: email@example.com.