What are some practical and positive steps you can take to ensure your kids are being raised in a safe and healthy environment when they are with your co-parent, if you are concerned that your ex’s use of alcohol may be an issue? We recently looked at how the family courts might handle a parenting matter involving allegations of alcohol abuse. Now, let’s take a quick look at how you might privately handle concerns over alcohol use, rather than turning to the courts for help.
[Dealing with alcohol concerns without litigation…continued]
If you wish to maintain a good relationship with your ex and yet need to know your children are safe when in their care, you may decide to try to work out the issue of your ex’s drinking without necessarily starting court action.
Coming to an amicable solution
Try not to blindside your ex with your actions in relation to the drinking. Think about first attempting to communicate with them as to how to handle the situation as you may be able to reach a workable private agreement. It may be possible to resolve the situation by entering into consent orders which spell out in detail how each parent must behave during or around parenting time. Health-related agreements are actually increasingly common in consent orders in today’s wellness-focused culture.
You may be able to get them to agree to submitting to testing before and/or after parenting time. In this regard, the use of personal alcohol monitoring systems is rising as new technologies have been developed which enable highly accurate, non-invasive monitoring in real-time with wireless connectivity. Parents wishing to prove their sobriety often voluntarily agree to such monitoring as it generates trust and can help them prove their parenting capacity. When engaged in voluntarily, using such systems can really help create a stress-free co-parenting dynamic.
But realistically, cooperation is not always possible, especially if the drinking parent is in denial about their alcohol misuse. And it may well end up being necessary to head down the litigation route. In the meantime, if you’re in the process of separating from a spouse who abuses alcohol, the following tips may help.
First of all, the kids should never be made to report to one parent about the other’s behaviour. But they can still be taught to assist their own safety. For example:
- Teach them not to get in a car with someone who has been drinking.
- Give them mobile phones and teach how to use them.
- Make sure they know your full name and address, and can remember your phone number rather than just having it stored as shortcut on their phone.
- Designate a trusted backup contact in case you cannot be reached.
- Let kids know how to find ‘safe strangers’ if they need help (police, firefighters obviously but also other trusted adults).
- Role play what they should do if they ever need help.
Other important actions you can take include:
- Seek out help for your child
A child who is already dealing with the emotions of divorcing or separating parents has a double whammy when a parent is also abusing alcohol. Finding age-appropriate counselling where they can speak without guilt or fear of consequences is often very helpful. Check out this article for signs your children may need a therapist.
- Maintain routines
A parent suffering addiction is a lot to handle for any child. Having solid routines helps, and extracurriculars can help to distract.
- Seek out help for yourself
Bolster your support network. Reach out to family and friends, find allies, access the available resources (counsellors, therapy, support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous).
- Look into the new technologies that can provide peace of mind
As noted above, you may be able to obtain your ex’s voluntary agreement to participate in safeguarding methods such as alcohol monitoring systems. This can be especially effective if the drinking parent is motivated to pursue sobriety.
If you wish to explore the legal remedies that may be open to you, please give us a call to arrange a free first conference to discuss your situation. [You might also like to read our previous blog on this.]
Do you require legal advice regarding a parenting dispute or other family law matter, perhaps in which parental alcohol misuse may be an issue? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.