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Including alcohol, drug and tobacco use in your parenting plan

The provisions that you and your co-parent negotiate for your parenting plan should reflect your priorities and concerns when it comes to the well-being of your children. No two parenting plans look alike.

Many parenting plans address is the use of alcohol, drugs and/or tobacco around the children. How you address that will depend on one or both parents' use (or abuse, in some cases) of these substances. Even if only one parent smokes, for example, your provision may state that neither parent will allow the children to be exposed to secondhand smoke in the home or car. This would also apply to any third parties that the children might be around when they're with a parent.

Parents will sometimes stipulate that no parent is allowed to consume alcohol or narcotics (with the exception of prescription drugs) when they're responsible for the children or within a designated number of hours before their custody or visitation begins. The plan may also restrict the use of alcohol or drugs by anyone else who's around the children.

If a parent has had (or continues to have) a problem with alcohol abuse, there are alcohol monitoring systems that a court can order a parent to use -- or a parent can agree to include it in a court order. One example is Soberlink. Depending on what type of monitoring is designated, a parent may have to take a blood alcohol content (BAC) test every day or only during their parenting time. These systems allow reporting to the court, the other parent and others, as designated.

These BAC measuring tools don't test for drugs. Drug testing, however, can be ordered by the court.

If you're concerned about your co-parent exposing your children to harmful substances or being under the influence when they're supposed to be caring for the children, that's a serious issue that you should address with your family law attorney. When your children's health, safety and well-being are at stake, you need to prioritize those over how your co-parent is going to react or be impacted by bringing their issues to the attention of the court.

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