According to a Gallup poll, the percentage of U.S. adults aged 18 and older who say they drink alcohol averaged 63% over the past two years. The drinking rate ticks up to 65% when narrowed to adults of legal drinking age, which is 21 and older nationwide. Unless your court order prohibits alcohol use prior to or during parenting time, it is absolutely permissible to have a drink. But when is drinking a problem during parenting time?

To begin, drinking in excess and then driving is illegal and especially dangerous when transporting a child. A parent with a criminal charge of driving under the influence can end up losing a driver’s license and the ability to assist with transportation for the child. Additionally, drinking to excess during parenting time with very young children who need constant care is not in their best interests, as parents may be unable to be awakened if a child cries, or may be less patient with a boundary-pushing toddler.

So what if you believe that your co-parent has an alcohol problem that is interfering with his or her parenting time? The sole fact that your parent used to drink when both parents were together is not enough to have conditions or restrictions put on a parent’s parenting time. Has the parent been pulled over for driving under the influence? That may indicate a problem or may have been a one-time mistake. Has your child suggested to you that their other parent fell asleep on the couch and could not be awakened, or found alcohol containers in the bathroom? A larger problem may be occurring.

What can you do? To begin, speak with your attorney about the issues. Sometimes, these problems and concerns can be shared between attorneys and the parent suspected of drinking to excess may be willing to undergo an alcohol assessment, or begin alcohol monitoring. If they are resistant and the issues persist, perhaps court intervention is needed.

Alcohol monitoring may be ordered by a Court and can require a parent to use a breathalyzer either on days that he or she has parenting time, or every day, at one or more set times each day. Private services such as Soberlink can assist with equipment and monitoring services. Soberlink results can be set up to be automatically reported to the other parent, providing the other parent with assurances that the child will be with a present, attentive parent. The court may order that a parent’s parenting time will beforfeited if he or she blows a “positive” test, and that a scheduled test which is missed will also be considered as positive, and parenting time will not occur. While this may feel like punishment or control exerted by the other parent, it also provides a way for the parent suspected of alcohol abuse to “prove the negative,” that they are not impaired during their parenting time and the child will be well taken care of with that parent.

If you suspect your co-parent has some alcohol issues which are negatively impacting his or her parenting time, contact the attorneys of Wanzer Edwards to discuss your options.

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Elisabeth M. Edwards Attorney
Elisabeth M. Edwards is a founding attorney at Wanzer Edwards, PC where she practices in the areas of family law and divorce, including collaborative law, family mediation and arbitration, and Parenting Coordination. Ms. Edwards completed her undergraduate degree at Hanover College, majoring in English. She went on to earn her Juris Doctor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.