Holidays; Parenting and Partying
Unfortunately, many parents struggle with alcohol use disorder. In my practice, I see alcohol use issues in well over half of my cases. I know that this problem is real and really challenging for families. One parent suffering from an addiction issue can leave the other parent helpless in some circumstances, wondering how they can ensure that their child is protected from being affected by the issue. I also frequently see this come up with parents who already have an established parenting plan in place but now need to have it modified because the other parent has developed an alcohol use disorder after the fact.
Florida law requires judges to consider the best interests of the children in parenting plan decisions.
Florida law also requires the courts to take substance abuse into account in determining what is in the child’s best interest in coming up or modifying a timesharing and parenting plan.
Know that you do not have to continuously put your children at risk if your co-parent suffers from alcohol use disorder.
The holidays can be an occasion when parents with an alcohol use issue drink to excess and a trigger for some who struggle to stay sober– even when they have their children under a co-parenting plan. The focus has to be on the safety and well-being of the children. There are no easy answers but there are some things that may help.
First, if the children are old and mature enough, a conversation with them about the issue is a good idea. Pretending that there is not a problem is not helpful for the children and can make them doubt their own judgment. If the children are old enough, they can alert the sober parent who can then contact the other parent, see what is going on, and, if necessary pick up the children.
Second, there are safety-focused parenting plans that work. If the parent with the issue is willing these plans can be put into place voluntarily. Often the help of a family counselor is invaluable for this. If the parent with the issue is unwilling, it is not difficult, with the appropriate evidence, to get a court order implementing a safety-focused parenting plan. And sadly, parents with alcohol use disorder provide such evidence quite easily in text messages, video chats, reports from the children, even arrests and DUI charges.
One such plan involves the use of a handheld breathalyzer that sends test results to the other parent in real-time. If the device is used prior to pick up or drop off, the sober parent can keep the children safe. If the device is used during timesharing, the sober parent can pick up the children immediately. If this happens frequently, it is likely that the timesharing with the parent who misuses alcohol will be limited if not suspended until something changes. That something may include substance use and/or mental health evaluation, treatment, counseling, and consecutive days of compliant tests showing no alcohol use. Every family is unique, every case is unique and every safety-focused parenting plan must be unique.
I can help. If you or a co-parent are struggling with alcohol use disorder and you want to keep your children safe, reach out and schedule a consultation. Your inquiry is completely private and confidential.