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Consequences of Parent Drinking to Inebriation During Parenting Time

New Jersey divorce law utilizes what is known as the best interests of a child standard in determining child custody in NJ and parenting time or visitation. In making custody and visitation orders, a court considers variety of factors on a case-by-case basis. An issue that can arise during divorce proceedings or after a marriage dissolution decree is granted involves a parent who drinks to the point of inebriation during visitation. There are a number of considerations to be borne in mind in a situation in which a noncustodial parent drinks to inebriation during visitation.

  • Inebriation during visitation is an affront to best interests standard
  • Parental alcohol abuse during visitation may be hidden until catastrophe strikes
  • Custodial parent shouldn’t be put in the position of playing of alcohol monitor
  • Judicial intervention
  • Graduated sanctions
  • Alcohol use disorder or alcoholism treatment
Inebriated Parent and Best Interests of the Child

As mentioned a moment ago, custody and visitation determinations are made based on what is in the best interests of a child. A fair albeit broad statement can be made that a parent who is inebriated or intoxicated during visitation is engaging in behavior that is not in the best interests of a child.

Visitation exists as a means of a noncustodial parent and child to maintain a meaningful relationship, an objective that cannot be met when the adult is intoxicated. Moreover, in a shocking number of cases, an inebriated parent puts a child in harm’s way.

Hidden Alcohol Abuse Until Disaster Strikes

An alarming reality of a parent who is inebriated during parenting time is that the custodial parent and other individuals associated with the children might not know this inappropriate conduct is occurring. This particular is the case when younger children are involved.

The fact is that in case after case in New Jersey and elsewhere around the country, knowledge of a parent drinking to excess during visitation doesn’t become known until some type of calamity occurs. This type of disaster typically comes in the form of a car accident or arrest for driving under the influence – when the children are in the vehicle.

Protecting the Custodial Parent from Being Alcohol Monitor

A custodial parent should not be forced into the position of monitoring a noncustodial parent’s misuse of alcohol, or any other mind-altering substance for that matter. Intervention by the court is necessary to ensure that a custodial parent doesn’t become unnecessarily ensnared in addressing the misconduct of the noncustodial parent.

Child Custody in NJ and Judicial Intervention

The proper procedure for taking action in regard to a noncustodial parent that becomes intoxicated during visitation is to seek and obtain an appropriate order from the court. This includes the prospect of an emergency order if a child is particularly at risk.

A court has the ability to issue an emergency order suspending visitation pending further investigation of the situation. A court is also able to schedule a hearing in to the situation reasonably rapidly to explore allegations of intoxication and to protect the welfare of a child or children.

Graduated Sanctions

If the facts and circumstances warrant, a court may use a graduated system of sanctions when a judge learns a noncustodial parent has been intoxicated during visitation. Such a process of graduated sanctions may begin with a firm admonishment from the court to an order to seek treatment to visitation supervision to visitation suspension.

Child Custody in New Jersey: Alcohol Use Disorder, Abuse, or Alcoholism Treatment

In the grand scheme of things, a more long-term solution is needed to address a situation in which a parent becomes inebriated during parenting time. Of course, finding a “permanent solution” to alcohol abuse or addiction would be tremendous. The reality is that experts in the field of alcohol use disorder are in near universal agreement that there is no such thing as a course of treatment that permanently addresses drinking abuse or alcoholism. Longer term solutions are possible, however.

When a noncustodial parent demonstrates laboring under alcohol abuse or addiction, treatment is an important course to consider in order to protect the best interests of a child. A court very well may order a noncustodial parent to enter into either an outpatient or inpatient alcohol treatment program as a condition of having visitation. A suspension of visitation, or an imposition of supervised visits, might be imposed until a noncustodial parent demonstrates progress in alcohol use disorder treatment (confirmed by a recovery care team).

If you have found yourself facing a situation in which your former spouse is drinking to the point of intoxication when he or she is with your child or children, the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen are here for you. You can reach us to schedule a free initial consultation by calling (201) 845- 7400.

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