Parenting time, historically widely known as visitation, permits a noncustodial parent and a minor child the ability to maintain a meaningful relationship. When custody is established in a divorce or paternity case, a parenting time schedule usually is established for the noncustodial parent.
Unfortunately, there are instances when an issue can arise in regard to parenting time or visitation. One such problem is a noncustodial parenting arriving to pick up a child for parenting time who apparently is intoxicated.
Deescalate the Situation
The first step to take when a person arrives for parenting time intoxicated is to try to deescalate the situation. At the very least, a solid effort should be made to avoid inflaming the emotions of the parent who appears to be intoxicated.
Discuss Away from the Child
If at all possible, the state of affairs should be discussed away from the child. Addressing a parent’s intoxication in front of a child benefits no one and can actually be harmful to the child. The focus must always be kept on what is in the best interests of the child.
Needless to say, the scheduled parenting time or visitation cannot occur when a parent is intoxicated. The intoxicated cannot be allowed to drive the child anywhere. (Indeed, a concerted effort needs to be made to keep the individual from driving at all.)
Specific rescheduling at the point in time an intoxicated parent arrives to pick up a child for a scheduled parenting time is not advisable. In other words, the custodial parent should not say something like “let’s try this again tomorrow.”
Rather, an attempt should be made to reach an agreement that the parents will talk by phone with the intoxicated one sobers up. Avoiding making a specific rescheduling commitment needs to be avoided because obtaining a court order halting or changing visitation may be necessary. An isolated instance of intoxication may not warrant significant action in the future. However, if this has become a persistent problem, some sort of professional assistance for the intoxicated parent may be necessary before visitation resumes.
If this type of scenario plays out while a divorce case is pending, it is important for the custodial parent to contact his or her lawyer. Particularly if this has become a recurring issue, the behavior of the non-custodial parent very well may have an impact on the ultimate custody and parenting time decisions of the court.
By following these guidelines, a custodial parent appropriately addresses issues associated with an intoxicated parent. This also protects the interests and welfare of a minor child.
The Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen
Peter Van Aulen is a compassionate family law attorney. He has over twenty-three years’ experience. Mr. Van Aulen has been certified as a matrimonial attorney by the New Jersey Supreme Court. This is an honor given to very small percentage of New Jersey lawyers. If you have any questions concerning custody and parenting time, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free initial consultation.