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How Does Alcohol Abuse Affect Parenting Plans in Florida?


While the law around child custody (or “timesharing” in Florida) has changed significantly over the years to reflect a growing belief that a child benefits equally from spending time with both parents (specifically, that it is public policy for a child to have “frequent and continuing contact with both parents”), that does not mean that alcohol or substance abuse is not a concern for a number of divorced parents, as this is not in the best interest of the child. Florida law, like others, forces the courts to take substance abuse into account in determining what is in the child’s best interest in coming up with a custody and visitation schedule.

Still, one parent suffering from an addiction issue can leave the other parent helpless in some circumstances, wondering how they can ensure that their child is protected from being affected by the issue. As attorneys who practice in family law here in Florida, we also frequently see this come up with parents who already have an established parenting plan in place but now need to have it modified because the other parent developed an addiction after the fact.

Your Options If the Other Parent Has a Substance Abuse Issue

With the assistance of your attorney, a parent can always make the case to the court that it is not in the child’s best interest to spend time with the other parent due to an addiction issue. In fact, there are a number of options that parents have if they have concerns, such as:

  • Supervised/safety-focused temporary parenting plans, where visitations are always supervised by a third party, in public or in a visitation center, etc.;
  • Orders to ensure that the addicted do not have electronic or physical contact with the child;
  • Bars on the addicted parent having any decision-making power when it comes to the child;
  • Bars on overnights and transporting the child;
  • Prohibitions on the addicted parent attending the child’s activities;
  • Prohibitions on the addicted parent owning any guns;
  • Mandatory alcohol and/or drug testing for the other parent such that they are prohibited from drinking alcohol for 24 hours prior to the child coming into contact with them; and
  • A number of other measures that may be appropriate, such as use of a breathalyzer, etc.

Testing for Alcohol and Drugs

When one party alleges that the other has a substance abuse issue, courts can order alcohol and/or drug testing, depending upon the evidence presented to the court. Still, it is important to note that the method ordered is important because different methods can test for different problems; for example, urinalysis generally provides a short window of time for detection, while hair testing (of hair taken from the body versus head) provides for a longer period of detection, but will not detect substance use that occurred during the two weeks prior to collection of the sample.

Contact Our Florida Family Law Attorneys If You Need Help

The Orlando divorce attorneys at Greater Orlando Family Law can assist you in working on a plan to ensure that you are your family are protected when it comes to parenting plans and timesharing. Learn more about these issues and our services by contacting us today.


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