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Alcohol and Custody: When is Monitoring Necessary?

Rachael Kamlet

We live in a society that places a value on social consumption of alcohol, but when is the line between social consumption and alcohol abuse or dependency crossed? Let’s be real, co-parenting is difficult in any situation however, adding a layer of alcohol abuse or addiction can immediately complicate things. Struggling with alcohol consumption should not limit a parent’s time with the children, however, if it interferes with the best interest of the children standard as outlined in §14-10-124 C.R.S., it will.

Alcohol abuse is a serious issue that can impact your custody arrangements whether you or your spouse is struggling. The moment a child is in potential danger due to a parent’s substance abuse, lawyers, experts, and ultimately the courts can become involved. There is a step to consider prior to involving third parties to your parenting time, alcohol monitoring. Implementing a form of alcohol monitoring can provide a lot of comfort to a co-parent who may be worried that the other parent is consuming alcohol at an unsafe level. Frankly, it is also a great tool for parents who are being accused of struggling with their alcohol use. Too often, when a parent struggles with addiction, the children are left to clean up their mess. By agreeing to participate in alcohol monitoring during your parenting time, you are demonstrating that you can place your child’s best interests before yours. It ensures that the children’s best interests are being met and that they are spending quality time with the parent at issue rather than taking on roles for that parent. Alcohol monitoring can avoid conflict with the other parent by tracking sobriety making sure there are no questions regarding alcohol use while exercising parenting time and ultimately, it shows the courts that you are willing to do whatever you need to, to exercise your parenting time.

Alcohol monitoring can take different forms. For example, a parent can agree to a portable breathalyzer test multiple times a day such as BACtrack or a parent can also agree to participate in urinalysis tests, which is the most common form of alcohol monitoring. The details regarding the testing and how frequently it must occur can be agreed to in your parenting plan. Often times these plans can provide for a step-up plan meaning after a certain amount of negative tests a parent can be entitled to more parenting time. On the flip side, the parent who is worried about the other’s alcohol abuse or dependency can require that language is used in the plan to limit the parenting time after positive tests. The bottom line is, alcohol monitoring is a great tool to get ahead of third party involvement in your parenting time and to ensure that your parenting time is not being limited and that your children are exposed to the best version of you. Divorce has a natural way of making parents feel that they already have lost a substantial amount of control over their parenting. Agreeing to some form of alcohol monitoring can help parties gain back their control in its own way.


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