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Protecting Your Child When a Parent Has a Substance Abuse Problem

By December 2, 2011July 21st, 2023Alisse Camazine Featured, Child Custody

By Alisse C. Camazine

The question frequently arises as to how to make sure young children are protected from alcoholic parents or parents that are addicted to other substances.  The court tries to fashion protection while still providing adequate access to the parents.  There are many possibilities to assure the children’s safety.

The court could order that a parent not drive with a child.  Alternatively, courts have ordered that a parent maintain an “Interlock” system on the automobile that prevents the driver from starting a car if the parent has been drinking.  Other courts require that a parent wear a “SCRAM” (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) bracelet that will detect whether a parent has been consuming alcohol.

Supervision is often necessary if a parent is not recovering.  The supervision can be done by a family member or a paid supervisor. If the supervisor is a family member, the court may require that the family member become a party to the action or sign a document that acknowledges what their responsibilities are if they supervise.  One important responsibility is the termination of the visit by the supervisor if the parent consumes alcohol during the visits or comes to the visits while under the influence.

The goal is to make sure that children are protected.  The child’s age and ability to independently report what the parent does during visits also can help determine the steps that a court might take.

Oftentimes in a case with a parent who has an addiction, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem.  This is an attorney who will represent the interests of the children.  A guardian is paid by the parents so there is an additional cost associated with this important position.


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