Parenting with a drug or alcohol addiction can be a daunting challenge at best and downright terrifying at worst. In considering parenting plan options, it is important to understand the various mechanisms that comprise a parenting plan to tailor them to drug and alcohol concerns.
Endangerment Versus Best Interest of the Child
Colorado examines “endangerment” or the “best interest of the child” when crafting parenting plans, with the best interest of the child as the preferred standard. The general idea is that it is in the best interest of the child to have minimal to zero contact with drugs and alcohol. Alcohol concerns may not automatically arise to endangerment, but that does not mean that drug and alcohol concerns should be ignored. When the parties or the court agree that there are drug or alcohol concerns in a particular case, the parenting plan will often include drug and alcohol treatment and testing.
Drug and Alcohol Testing or Treatment
One of the best ways to ensure minimal to zero contact with drugs or alcohol is through testing or treatment. There are several testing methods that a person can utilize: Random urinary tests, breath tests, hair follicle tests, Peth tests, fingernail tests, drug and alcohol classes, mental health therapy, inpatient drug and alcohol treatment, or a combination of these factors. Because drug and alcohol concerns are incredibly tailored to a specific case, no drug and alcohol plan will look exactly like another.
Increases and Decreases in Parenting Time
While it is in the best interest of the children to be around loving parents, it is also in the best interest of children to be around sober and responsible parents. Sadly, these ideals often come into conflict. A way to minimize this conflict is to establish benchmarks before increasing parenting time. Such benchmarks are part of a “step up” parenting plan. Once a parent completes certain benchmarks to demonstrate sobriety, they “step up” to more parenting time. However, if a parent violates benchmarks, it could be in the best interest of the child to “step down” that parents time with the children until they can demonstrate sobriety.
CFIs and PREs
Another way for parents to address drug and alcohol concerns is through a court appointed professional, such as a Child and Family Investigator (CFI) or a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator (PRE). These court-appointed professionals provide the court with the perspective of a neutral third party who can better examine the facts on the ground to assist the court and make recommendations for the parenting plan. Note that involving one of these experts can be costly and time-consuming, however.
Restraining Orders and Alcohol
Sometimes drug and alcohol issues can unfortunately lead to violence or threats of violence, and requesting a restraining order may be the safest course of action. While not every case will lead to a restraining order, it is important to speak to an attorney if you have drug and alcohol safety concerns.
Contesting Drug and Alcohol Concerns
Some parents may falsely accuse the other parent of having a drug or alcohol addiction or create an unreasonable parenting plan to address drug and alcohol concerns. In such cases, it is important to hire an attorney to confront allegations, especially before finalizing a parenting plan.
There are several ways to assist parents dealing with drug and alcohol parenting time situations. Because every case will call for a different solution, it is important to seek an attorney to best analyze these options. Seeking legal guidance from the Harris Law Firm can provide invaluable support. Our experienced child custody attorneys can help you achieve the best possible outcome for you and your children.