How to Trust Your Partner Again: Using Remote Alcohol Monitoring to Address Alcohol Concerns in Family Law

A couple having a conversation
May 6, 2024
|   updated:
June 1, 2024

Relationships are fragile, requiring each partner's care and attention. All couples experience episodes of conflict, disappointment, and forgiveness. Once Family Courts and lawyers become involved, however, the couple is usually past the point of reconciliation, making separation the likely outcome.

Man and woman crossing their arms

When Trust is Damaged by Alcohol Abuse

Issues that sometimes end a marriage include communication breakdown, infidelity, financial disagreements, incompatible values, and diverging life goals. All too often, it can also include one person's excessive use of alcohol or drugs. Whatever the conflict, the common denominator is that they all involve a breach or erosion of the foundation of trust within a marriage. Few relationships survive the destruction of mutual trust, especially when the damage stems from a partner’s substance abuse.

Excessive alcohol use by one partner can uniquely threaten a marriage relationship, often because it becomes a chronic issue. This is not to downplay the equally destructive effects of serial infidelity or physical or emotional abuse. However, excessive drinking might be considered inconsequential. For instance, one partner drinking too much at a social event might be excused by others as simply "having a good time" rather than recognized as a serious concern.
Over time, prolonged alcohol use can affect an individual’s mood, leading to erratic, irritable, or withdrawn behavior. The situation can feel more like a betrayal when attempts are made to conceal excessive drinking. In cases involving co-parenting, for example, there may be concerns about the safety of the children under the alcohol misusing parent’s care. The person who drinks excessively might react defensively or even aggressively when their partner addresses their drinking habits. If alcohol continues to be a major issue, it can inevitably erode trust in the relationship, likely resulting in divorce. 

Importance of Trust in a Relationship

Trust is the foundation on which relationships are based. In a marriage, each spouse must know they can rely on their partner to be there when needed, honor their mutual boundaries, and act with integrity, honesty, discretion, generosity, and sensitivity in matters involving their spouse. When trust is broken by substance abuse or betrayal, repairing the damage is a long process that can take months and sometimes years.

To delve deeper into the complexities of rebuilding trust in relationships impacted by substance abuse, an episode of Kate Anthony’s "Divorce Survival Guide" podcast featuring Chris Beck, Vice President of Business Development of Soberlink Healthcare, provides insightful perspectives. In this episode, Chris discusses the broader implications of substance abuse on marital trust and co-parenting. He highlights how consistent and transparent behavior, facilitated by modern monitoring technologies, can significantly aid in mending broken trust. This discussion is particularly valuable for those navigating divorce and co-parenting, illustrating that recovery and trust restoration are both possible with the right approaches and tools.

Is it Possible to Successfully Co-Parent Following Divorce?

Couples with children who end their marriage relationship continue to be parents, each of whom has a right and responsibility to maintain healthy, nurturing relationships with their kids.

While the hurt caused by a partner’s betrayal can leave lingering resentment, bitterness, and hostility, successful co-parenting is still possible once the parties establish a workable schedule, even if that means limiting the need for them to interact directly with each other. However, divorces resulting from one party’s excessive alcohol use present a serious dilemma for the concerned parent, the divorce lawyers, the Family Court Judge, and even for the parent abusing alcohol. There must be safeguards in place to ensure they remain alcohol-free before and during parenting time.

Understanding the Impact of Alcohol Dependency

Alcohol dependency is a chemical addiction affecting the user's nervous system. Alcohol triggers the brain's reward processing system responsible for regulating pleasure. It reduces the activity in the part of the brain that affects stress, anxiety, and emotional pain. While alcohol also has a psychophysiological impact on non-dependent drinkers, people with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) (colloquially referred to as alcoholism) develop a compulsion to drink alcohol and risk serious health consequences, including liver disease, pancreatitis, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

In addition to the danger to their physical health, alcohol-dependent people can also develop anxiety, depression, and suicidal feelings. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that slows down brain functioning. Its effect on brain function is evident when impairments like slurred speech, slowed reaction time, diminished balance, and distorted judgment appear.

Alcohol Effects on the Relationship

Alcoholism often leads to a cycle of betrayal within relationships. Individuals with alcohol dependence tend to prioritize drinking above other interests over time. Drinking becomes more of a priority than spending time with family, connecting with their children, fulfilling obligations, or being emotionally available. Alcohol-dependent people often display stark mood changes, including anger, irritability, or apathy. They often become secretive, lying about their activities to hide their drinking. This can include excessive drinking during parenting time, which impacts their role as a parent in several ways: they may miss or be late to important events, lack the emotional availability needed to support their children, and struggle to maintain a safe and stable environment for their children. As alcohol dependency progresses, these challenges further impair their ability to be a committed and healthy parent in a co-parenting arrangement.

In instances where a couple has yet to separate, once child safety becomes at risk, the situation becomes more critical, and the divorce may become necessary.

Challenges of Rebuilding Trust After Alcohol Dependency

The primary difficulty in rebuilding trust for an alcohol-dependent person is rooted in the nature of the dependency itself. Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease. It is not a voluntary condition that an individual can control. Even with the best of intentions, someone in recovery from alcohol addiction is always at risk of having a slip or a relapse. While slips and relapses are a normal part of alcohol recovery, they present heightened concerns regarding child safety within co-parenting arrangements. Chris shares, “You have to understand it is a disease. It's going to come back. But let's have some consequences and protocols in place so that we can keep those kids safe.”

When an alcohol dependency or drug addiction has severely damaged an individual’s relationships, rebuilding the trust of those they've betrayed or hurt is usually a long, complicated process. In the context of Family Law, the biggest challenge in rebuilding trust after alcohol dependency is resolving issues related to child custody and co-parenting duties.

People whose alcohol abuse has broken their marriage relationship may need to rebuild trust not only with their former partners and family members but also with Family Court professionals, child welfare and social workers, judges, and lawyers involved in their custody and alcohol cases, as these are the individual’s tasked with ensuring the best interests of the child.

Law professional and client discussing a contract

Obtaining the Court’s Trust

The main responsibility of a Family Court Judge is to protect the child's best interests in custody or visitation cases. A parent struggling with alcohol abuse must overcome significant hurdles to convince the judge, their former spouse, social workers, and other court officials that their chronic illness will not affect their ability to care for the child. As Chris explains, “Weaponizing the disease of alcoholism is probably the worst thing that can happen, not only for the individual but also for the kids and the way it affects their relationship with that parent.”

Can Broken Trust Ever Be Rebuilt in a Co-Parenting Relationship?

Healing from the wounds of alcoholism's betrayal takes time and effort. However, difficult as it may be, there is hope. A former partner whose trust was repeatedly betrayed or who was lied to, let down, abused, or manipulated by someone who abuses alcohol is understandably skeptical about the prospect of their former partner's turning over a new leaf, especially as it relates to safer parenting practices. No matter how often the former spouse reassures them of change or cessation of alcohol consumption, lingering negative memories may continue to breed fear and worry.

Only consistent evidence of sobriety over a significant period can begin to persuade someone who is skeptical that the change is genuine. The process requires patience, persistence, and a reliable method of confirming that alcohol no longer plays a role in the person's life or poses a risk to the children involved. 

Can a Recovering Alcoholic Demonstrate Accountability?

Until a few years ago, Family Court judges, divorce lawyers, and child custody litigants lacked a verifiable method of monitoring a parent’s sobriety. The only means available for court officials, social workers, and family members to determine a party’s alcohol use or sobriety were random urine tests, meetings with counselors, and the passage of time without a reported alcohol-related incident. 

However, none of these tactics provided a thoroughly reliable means of confirming that the individual did not consume alcohol during custodial time. Random urine testing could fail to detect alcohol consumed a few days earlier, and drinking events could have gone undetected immediately after scheduled meetings with counselors. This lack of reliable monitoring made it difficult to confidently assess an individual’s accountability during custody periods.

However, with appropriate tools, individuals who have struggled with alcohol abuse can effectively demonstrate accountability. Modern technologies like remote alcohol monitoring devices deliver real-time sobriety data. These tools offer a transparent and dependable way for alcohol-addicted individuals to prove their sobriety, helping to rebuild trust with Courts, family members, and themselves as they responsibly engage in their children's lives. 

Trust: The Cornerstone of Co-Parenting

Without reliable monitoring technology, individuals struggling with alcohol addiction often require supervised parenting time. Visits are typically overseen by social workers or other professionals in public places, which limits privacy for both the child and the parent. Overnight visits are usually not allowed, and if a designated supervisor is unavailable, the visit will typically be canceled. 

These stringent measures are implemented for a significant period, often four to six months, to allow the parent to demonstrate a consistent commitment to sobriety. This duration is critical in establishing a track record that can begin to rebuild trust—a foundational element of any co-parenting arrangement. When alcohol abuse is involved, trust becomes even more crucial because the stakes include the emotional and physical safety of the child. Once severely broken, trust must be restored not just through promises, but through clear, consistent actions that show dedication to recovery and responsible parenting. This process helps ensure that co-parenting can occur in a stable, predictable, and safe manner, benefiting the overall development and well-being of the child.

Soberlink text alert on a phone screen

Soberlink Alcohol Monitoring Technology Proves Sobriety While Rebuilding Trust

Rebuilding trust in a co-parenting relationship is a dual effort, demanding that both parties commit to clear and measurable guidelines. This is especially crucial when past alcohol-related incidents have undermined trust in otherwise amicable relationships. Trust is a fundamental prerequisite for effective co-parenting; without it, managing shared parenting responsibilities smoothly and predictably becomes nearly impossible.

To address these challenges, Soberlink's alcohol monitoring technology has been adopted widely. This system allows parents to conclusively demonstrate their sobriety, providing real-time, verifiable proof that can help ease concerns and enhance the peace of mind for all involved—especially during custody evaluations and ongoing alcohol-related cases. By using Soberlink, parents can not only show their commitment to sobriety but also actively rebuild trust, making co-parenting efforts more secure and focused on the best interests of their children.

As Chris explains, “[Soberlink] is an empowerment tool for [parents] to say 'Hey, this is not an issue. I'm documenting my sobriety to you so that I can earn some trust back.’”

Family law professionals with a Soberlink device

Court-Admissible Alcohol Monitoring for Family Law 

Soberlink's comprehensive system offers an innovative solution for alcohol monitoring in custody cases, combining technology and convenience to provide court-admissible documentation of sobriety that supports child safety and offers peace of mind for parents.

  • Discreet and Portable Breathalyzer: Soberlink's cutting-edge breathalyzer is designed for convenience and discretion, enabling parents to prove their sobriety anytime, anywhere.
  • Instant Notification System: BAC readings are immediately transmitted to designated parties through text or email, promoting transparency and trust in custodial situations.
  • Intuitive Software: User-friendly software ensures a seamless experience that eliminates hearsay, streamlining litigation and making processes more efficient for both legal professionals and parents.
  • Facial Recognition Technology: With advanced facial recognition, Soberlink automatically verifies the identity of the person being tested, ensuring accurate and reliable results.
  • Tamper Detection Sensors: Equipped with sophisticated sensors, the system effectively detects any attempts to cheat the system, maintaining the integrity of the testing process and promoting child safety
  • Expert In-House Support: Soberlink’s dedicated support team includes a compliance department, provides certified records, and offers expert testimony as needed, serving the needs of the family law community with over 10 years of experience

Recognizing Sobriety’s Impact on Trust

Excessive alcohol use has damaged many family relationships, and without sobriety or evidence of it, couples struggle to mend their bonds. Even if a person achieves long-term sobriety after years of alcohol abuse, their co-parent may still find it difficult to trust them with the children without proper safeguards in place.

Given past behaviors, skepticism about a partner's sobriety is understandable. Remote alcohol monitoring devices like Soberlink now provide a reliable, real-time record of an individual’s alcohol consumption or abstinence.

Chris shares, “Now with technology like Soberlink, we're able to get those real-time results, and you're able to look at them and say, 'Hey, I have peace of mind that my kiddos are safe while with my ex.'”

This remote testing process was designed for ease of use and offers objective data that reassure the concerned party of their co-parent’s sobriety. Employing such a monitoring system is an effective way to demonstrate sobriety and rebuild trust in a previously damaged relationship. 

Soberlink Scheduled Testing

Soberlink remote alcohol monitoring devices are portable and designed for ease of use. The system operates using scheduled testing, agreed upon by all parties, rather than at random intervals. This scheduled approach allows the testing to seamlessly fit into the individual's daily life without interfering with work or other responsibilities. It also helps decrease testing anxiety among monitored parents so they can focus on time with their kids. 

Chris poignantly shares, “People always thought of alcohol testing as random because they want to catch the person, but that's not really what we're after. We want to make sure we keep the best interest of the child in mind, and we don't want that parent to have so much anxiety that it then leads to even more drinking. We want to make sure that we're bringing the family unit back together, and we're earning trust back by empowering that individual to take those tests.”

Soberlink offers two Family Law programs: Level 1—Parenting Time Only and Level 2—Daily Testing. In Level 1, parents test only on days when they have their children. Level 2, however, requires complete abstinence and testing seven days a week.

In terms of testing frequency, experts typically recommend that parents start with three tests per day—morning, afternoon, and evening—to foster accountability and establish a consistent routine.

Soberlink’s scheduled testing aims to establish a routine that is easy to maintain and minimally invasive, thereby supporting sustained compliance and child safety.

Rebuilding Trust Through Consistency

Consistent Soberlink testing plays a critical role in rebuilding trust between parents during a divorce, mainly when alcohol misuse has been a concern. Instant test results prove a parent's commitment to sobriety, offering peace of mind to the concerned parent and the Court. This consistent demonstration of responsibility helps to alleviate concerns about the well-being of the children involved, which is paramount during litigation.

Integrating Soberlink into the co-parenting framework allows both parties to monitor progress in real-time, fostering a sense of security and accountability. Scheduled testing ensures that both parents know the testing times, which can help reduce conflicts and misunderstandings about compliance. This predictability helps stabilize the co-parenting relationship, making it easier to focus on effective communication and joint decision-making for the benefit of their children.

Over time, the routine of scheduled Soberlink tests can create a foundation for rebuilding trust. As trust gradually improves, parents may find it easier to cooperate and coordinate their efforts in raising their children. This newfound cooperation can significantly enhance the overall dynamics of the family, allowing parents to transition more smoothly into their new independent roles while maintaining a stable environment for their children.

A young boy waving to his mom

Moving Forward with a Renewed Sense of Trust and Hope

Moving forward with a renewed sense of trust and hope, remote alcohol monitoring systems like Soberlink are instrumental in restructuring the dynamics of co-parenting relationships impacted by alcohol abuse and a sense of betrayal. Providing real-time, verifiable evidence of sobriety is crucial in such situations. Not only does it allow for more transparent communication between parents, but it also plays a key role in protecting the best interests of their children. A parent reaffirms their commitment to responsible parenting by demonstrating consistent sobriety, paving the way for a stable and harmonious co-parenting environment. Chris underscores this point, stating, "It's not an oppressive tool. It's a unifying tool. It's an empowering tool."

Ultimately, the journey to rebuild trust in the aftermath of alcohol-related issues and betrayal requires patience, dedication, and the right tools. Systems like Soberlink empower parents to prove their ongoing commitment to sobriety, facilitating a healthier and more trusting co-parenting arrangement.  This can potentially allow for superseding Court Orders to provide for more liberal visitation conditions in the future. As a result, this enhances the overall well-being of the children involved and contributes to a more positive and supportive family structure as parents navigate their restored relationships and this new season of life.

Learn More About Soberlink

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