Substance Abuse and Visitation: Measures to Ensure Your Child’s Safety
California family law strongly favors that both parents enjoy substantially equal time with their minor children. However, this is not always possible especially if one parent suffers from addiction and or substance abuse problems. Substance abuse in the presence of children can be dangerous not only to a child’s physical health, but also their mental and emotional health.
Are you concerned that your co-parent has substance abuse problems to the level that it endangers your child?
If you suspect your co-parent has a substance abuse problem, there are many tools and alternatives available to ensure that your child is safe during their time with your co-parent.
Soberlink is a device that allows for remote alcohol monitoring. It is a breathalyzer that has facial recognition to ensure that the correct person is taking the test and it sends the test results to the other parent, attorneys involved in the case, etc. It also sends reminder text messages for upcoming scheduled tests. This program does require the purchase of the device as well as subscription to a monthly plan.
Substance Abuse – Mandatory Drug/Alcohol Testing
The court can order a parent to submit to drug or alcohol testing. If the court orders mandatory drug or alcohol testing, it is frequently ordered to occur on a schedule. The other parent can request a test and then the testing parent has a specified number of hours to comply.
Keep in mind, with both Soberlink testing and Mandatory Drug/Alcohol testing, if a test is scheduled and the testing parent fails to test within the allowable timeframe, it is often considered as if the parent tested positive. If you have a scheduled test it is critical to complete the test on time. Your Order may outline what happens in the event of a positive test.
Supervised visitation is when one parent’s contact with the minor child is supervised by a neutral third party. Visits can be supervised by a family member or friend or they can be professionally supervised by an individual hired specifically for that purpose. Many parents who have their visits supervised view supervised visitation as a punitive measure or embarrassing, but it can actually be a benefit since it can provide that the neutral third party submits a written report as to how the visits go. Additionally, this can ease concerns of the other parent as there is a third party that can step in if the visiting parent is under the influence. It should be noted that only professional supervisors typically prepare reports after each visit to document the interaction and any concerns if applicable.
No Visitation/ Restraining Orders
If a parent’s substance abuse issues rise to the level where it makes it unsafe for the parent to have any visitation with the child, the court may order that no visitation occur. In the event the court orders no visitation, there are typically guidelines or goals that the parent can accomplish to restore visitation. For example, a court may order that a parent has no visitation until they complete a rehabilitation program and/or provide 6 months of negative drug tests.
In extreme cases of substance abuse a parent can request a Restraining Order. This typically occurs when one parent’s substance abuse is coupled with physical abuse, verbal abuse, or endangerment of the child. A restraining order is a court order that prohibits the restrained party from making any contact with the protected party and is effective until it expires or further order of the court.
Keep in mind that these tools and measures should not be requested frivolously or to punish a parent but to ensure the safety of the minor child. Courts do not take false claims lightly and frivolous requests for these measures may have consequences for the parent requesting them. Although these measures may seem punitive to the parents having to utilize them, keep in mind they can be powerful tools to help demonstrate that you are a fit parent.
If you are concerned that your co-parent has a substance abuse problem and believe it is interfering with their ability to parent and live in Mendocino County, Sonoma County, or Lake County California, contact our experienced Santa Rosa family law attorneys today to schedule a confidential consultation.