–by Sam Darling, An Everett Divorce Attorney
Clients regularly ask me what drug and alcohol restrictions we should include in our proposed parenting plan. The answer of course depends on the facts of each case. After all, no restrictive language is warranted when no drug or alcohol concerns are present; whereas grave chemical dependence concerns merit stringent protections. This article relates the small range of restrictions courts and attorneys usually employ against chemical dependence issues.
1. Remedy for Extreme Cases: No Contact with Children. Completely restricting contact between a parent and children is a rare remedy, but it may be appropriate, at least initially, in cases involving serious, active addictions. Even in these extreme cases, the parenting plan usually lays out a path for the addicted parent to see his or her children. That path normally entails staying sober, submitting to a chemical dependence evaluation, and undergoing any treatment the evaluator recommends. If the chemically dependent parent successfully walks this path, he or she usually receives incrementally increased access to the children. At first that increased access might be limited to a few hours supervised visitation per week and, in some cases, eventually lead to unsupervised overnight visitations. Of note, a chemically dependent parent who has not seen his or her children for an extended period—due to a binge, treatment, or any other reason—should undergo reintegration therapy as part of his or her path.
2. Serious Yet Not Extreme Cases: Supervised Visitation. Typically, even parents who display a recent history of relapse are allowed to see their children to an extent. In these situations, the visitation tends to be limited to a small number of supervised hours per week at first. As described above, the parenting plan typically provides a path for the addicted parent to gain unsupervised visitation—that is, the restrictions often loosen as the parent undergoes evaluations and recommended treatments.
3. Moderate Cases: Evaluation & Any Recommended Treatment. In cases where the drug and alcohol abuse was distant or only mildly suspected, the parenting plan often does not restrict contact between the parent and children. Instead, the parenting plan customarily requires a drug and alcohol evaluation and completion of the evaluator’s recommended treatment, if the evaluator happens to recommend any treatment at all.
4. Right to Demand an Immediate UA. Regardless the severity of the addiction or suspected addiction, the parenting plan generally forbids the restricted parent from consuming drugs or alcohol, and the other parent receives the right to suspend visitation and demand an immediate urinalysis (UA) if he or she suspects a relapse. This protects children from parents who stray from their path toward rehabilitation.
4. Example Language. The following is an actual example of a set of typical chemical dependence restrictions:
SUSPECTED CHEMICAL DEPENDENCE
Respondent may not consume or be under the influence of alcohol or any illegal or un-prescribed drugs. Petitioner may suspend the other party’s residential time at any time if he or she suspects the other party is under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or un-prescribed drugs. Respondent must then report for a UA that same day, or, if after business hours, the following morning. Respondent shall pay for the UA, though Petitioner shall reimburse the UA fees if the UA result returns negative for banned substances. If Respondent has three consecutive negative UA test results under this paragraph, the requirements of this paragraph shall terminate and become unenforceable.
Respondent shall obtain a chemical use assessment pursuant to WAC 388-805 at his or her cost. The evaluator shall contact collaterals, including but not limited to Petitioner. Respondent shall follow all recommendations to the evaluator’s satisfaction, including ongoing AA meetings if applicable. A copy of the evaluation, recommendations, and progress and completion reports shall be filed with the court and provided to the parties’ counsel (and the Guardian ad Litem, if applicable).
Respondent and the child(ren) shall have reintegration therapy prior to Respondent exercising any residential time, including supervised visitation and Skype calls. The reintegration therapist’s fees shall be paid by Respondent. The therapist shall be provided a copy of Guardian ad Litem report, if any. Respondent’s residential time with the child(ren) shall begin when the therapist feels it appropriate and pursuant to the therapists recommendations, including any gradual reintegration. Copies of the recommendations and any progress and completion reports shall be filed with the court and provided to the parties’ counsel (and the Guardian ad Litem, if applicable).
SUPERVISED VISITATION UNTIL REQUIREMENTS COMPLETED
Until completion of the chemical assessment(s) and resulting recommendations, Respondent’s residential time shall be restricted to supervised visitation and Skype contact. The supervised visitation shall occur every Saturday from 2 pm to 6 pm at the Alderwood Mall, with Petitioner arranging the transportation. Respondent’s mother shall provide the supervision unless the parties agree on an alternate supervisor. The Skype contact shall occur on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8 pm. If Respondent does not initiate a Skype call within fifteen minutes of that time, the Skype visit is cancelled.
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