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Substance Abuse and Parenting During a Divorce

October 6, 2017

Substance abuse can create issues for many families and can play a significant role in a large number of divorce cases, especially those where there are minor children. At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC we have experience in handling divorce cases involving this issue throughout the towns of Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, and Westport. A divorce can be challenging enough on its own, but when one or both parties struggle with substance abuse, it creates added complications and can make the process seem insurmountable to the children and parties involved. Substance abuse in one form another can cripple a couple and devastate a family. It is also common for persons suffering from substance abuse to physically or mentally abuse their spouse and/or children. At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC we offer the experience and resources to understand and work through the specific issues of each case, including substance abuse.

Navigating a divorce with children when one or both parties have a substance abuse problem often requires a delicate approach. For example, one party may be fearful that his or her alcoholic spouse will drink and become intoxicated during parenting time with the children, or even worse, get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated with the children. On the other hand, a spouse who is a recovering addict may worry that parenting time will be limited due to his or her past issues and behaviors.

Due to competing interests, it can be difficult for parties to agree on a Parenting Plan that each party believes is in the child’s best interest. The parties, their attorneys, and the Court must balance the competing interests all while making sure that any decision made or order entered into is in the best interest of the children.

There are multiple ways to ensure a child’s safety and properly deal with parenting issues in a dissolution action where one party has substance abuse issues.  One of the first steps that can be taken is to involve neutral third-party professionals, such as a Guardian Ad Litem. A Guardian Ad Litem is appointed by the court and is tasked with determining what is in the child’s best interest. A Guardian Ad Litem is also often able to speak to a party’s therapist or treatment provider to better understand a party’s mental and physical state and the impact it may have on the child.

A second way of ensuring the safety of all parties is to file a Motion with the Court asking that a party be randomly tested for drugs and/or alcohol. For alcoholics, this often means providing the party with a device that will randomly require him or her to participate in a breathalyzer test. The results of the test are then immediately sent to the test administrator. The usual protocol is then for attorneys to be notified if and when the party fails or misses a test. After a failed test it may be agreed to that all further parenting time is suspended or that the parent who failed a test may only exercise parenting time under supervision by another person.

A third option is to file a Motion for Supervised Visitation. This Motion asks the Court for an Order whereby all parenting time must take place in the presence of a third party. The third party may be Court appointed or may be someone mutually agreed upon by the parties. The goal is of course to protect the children and allow the parent to demonstrate their ability to parent appropriately.

In the Connecticut judicial system it is easy for families suffering from substance abuse to feel overwhelmed and helpless. At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC we have the ability to guide you through the process and ensure your safety and your children’s safety.

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