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July 26, 2023 Family Law

Shaping the Future of Family Law: Strategies for Addressing Addiction in Custody Cases

By: Soberlink

This article is published in connection with the sponsorship agreement between Soberlink and the ABA.

Family Law and child custody are constantly evolving to reflect changes societal norms and new knowledge. One of these ever-changing issues is addiction in child custody cases. As the prevalence of addiction rises, it becomes increasingly imperative for family law attorneys and mediators to understand its impact on custody disputes.

Courts have traditionally prioritized the "best interests of the child" standard in custody determinations. This includes considerations of parental fitness, the child's health and safety, and the quality of home environments. However, when addiction enters the equation, these assessments become more complex. The volatile nature of addiction often leads to unstable home environments, potentially endangering the child's well-being.

While each case is unique, courts generally view addiction as a significant factor negatively affecting parental fitness. The legal system recognizes that addiction can impair a parent's ability to provide a safe and nurturing environment, leading to potential physical or emotional harm to the child. It's important to note that addiction itself is not a disqualifying factor in custody decisions but serves as a piece of the larger assessment of parental capability.

Recent legal developments have further illuminated the complexities of addressing addiction in custody cases. In several jurisdictions, courts have begun implementing specialized programs and resources for parents struggling with substance abuse. This holistic approach seeks to provide parents with the support needed to overcome addiction, simultaneously focusing on the child's best interest. A landmark case, In re David M. (2022), illustrated this shift, where the court considered the parent's consistent engagement in a recovery program as a significant factor in favor of granting custody.

For attorneys and mediators handling cases involving addiction, there are several practical strategies and tools to consider. It's crucial to approach these cases with empathy and understanding, recognizing the hardships faced by families affected by addiction. It’s also essential to stay updated on the latest resources available, including treatment programs, support groups, and technological solutions, that can be suggested to clients.

One technology available now is a system designed to monitor alcohol consumption such as Soberlink. Soberlink can be used in all 50 states and Canada.  Such a system provides a tangible proof of sobriety. It employs real-time breathalyzer tests, facial recognition, and tamper detection to provide more reliable and timely data. The utilization of an alcohol monitoring system such as Soberlink allows parents to demonstrate their commitment to recovery in a concrete way, offering courts an additional measure of child safety during visitations or custody periods. This can significantly impact custody decisions, aligning with the child's best interests while empowering parents in their recovery journey.

Furthermore, advocating for parents' commitment to recovery, demonstrated through tools like Soberlink, can be a persuasive factor in court, as evidenced in In re David M.

It’s important to understand that in these sensitive cases, a "win" may not necessarily mean securing sole custody for one parent. Instead, it may involve creating a scenario that supports the recovering parent's journey towards sobriety, monitors child safety effectively, and ensures the child's emotional well-being.

In conclusion, addressing addiction in custody cases requires a nuanced understanding of addiction, its impact on families, and the role of technological tools like Soberlink. By staying informed and adopting empathetic strategies, family law professionals can better serve their clients and contribute to shaping a more responsive and compassionate future for family law.

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