Many of us are coming to the end of ‘Dry January’, after deciding to give up alcohol after consuming more than usual over Christmas and New Year.
However, for some, alcohol concerns are not just limited to January, and these can have a significant impact on arrangements for your children. The NSPCC reports that parents who consume excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to children being emotionally abused or neglected. For this reason, when alcohol concerns are raised within discussions about the arrangements for children they need to be taken very seriously.
Raising concerns about alcohol and child arrangements
If one parent raises concerns about the other parent’s alcohol consumption in the context of Court proceedings, the first step the Court is most likely to take is to order that parent to provide a hair strand and blood test. These tests can show a person’s average alcohol consumption over a period of time, usually the last six months. The Court can then assess from these whether there is an issue with alcohol that needs to be managed. Generally these types of tests show if someone has a chronic or normal alcohol consumption or if they have been abstinent. A chronic result is considered to be anything in excess of 500ml of wine or 3 and a half pints a day on average.
If a person’s alcohol result shows a chronic level of alcohol consumption, the Court is likely to want further evidence to show that the alcohol consumption is being reduced and the dependency managed in a way that is not going to negatively impact the children. The Court can require someone to attend an alcohol awareness programme, and to provide a further test in 6 months time, in the hope that the person will engage with the programme and reduce their alcohol consumption.
Arrangements for spending time with their children in the meantime will depend on the severity of the alcohol consumption, whether there are any other safeguarding concerns, the age of the child and what the arrangements have been to date. The Court could order that time with their children is to be supervised until a sufficient alcohol reading is provided, or if it is going to be unsupervised, the Court could order that the person should be breathalysed before and after contact and provide undertakings to the Court (an enforceable promise) not to consume alcohol whilst looking after their children or the run up to this.
Once the person’s alcohol consumption is no longer a concern for the Court, their time with their children is likely to be increased and on an unsupervised basis. There may be provision for undertakings and breathalysing to continue for a short while, but these restrictions will eventually fall away if the parent can demonstrate that they have been effectively managing their alcohol intake.
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We are dedicated to resolving matters as amicably as possible and every solicitor in our family team are members of Resolution which means we have a duty to reduce conflict wherever possible.