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My Child’s Stepparent Is An Alcoholic. What Can I Do?

Can a Stepparent Be Required to Use Soberlink?

In blended families, the introduction of new spouses can bring unique challenges, particularly concerning the safety and well-being of children. A question raised in the Modern Divorce support group touches on a sensitive issue: Can a single mom require her ex-husband’s new wife to use Soberlink, a remote cheat-proof alcohol monitoring device, during parenting time?

The Scenario: Concerns Over Stepparent’s Alcohol Use

In her question to Modern Law, a mother expressed concerns about her ex-husband’s new wife, who has a good relationship with the kids but has had physical altercations with the 14-year-old daughter when drinking. The mother, seeking to avoid court, wondered if she can insist on the stepmother using Soberlink to ensure sobriety during parenting time.

Legal Insights on Stepparents and Court Jurisdiction

The answer is no. Family courts do not have jurisdiction over stepparents, only parents. Therefore, the court cannot directly order a stepparent to use Soberlink. However, if there’s evidence of abuse, such as physical altercations, the mother could obtain an order of protection on behalf of her children against the stepmother. This action could significantly impact the family dynamic, potentially requiring the stepmother to leave the home when her husband’s children are there.

Alternative Solutions: Agreements and Parenting Time

A more nuanced approach, and likely more practical, involves discussing the issue with the ex-husband. The mother could propose an agreement where the father’s parenting time is contingent on the stepmother using Soberlink. Such an agreement, though not initially enforceable by the court, becomes binding once agreed upon by both parents. This approach allows for addressing the alcohol issue without directly involving the court.

Key Takeaways

  1. Jurisdiction Limits: Family courts cannot directly impose conditions on stepparents.
  2. Protective Measures: In cases of abuse, obtaining an order of protection is a viable option.
  3. Negotiated Agreements: Crafting an agreement between parents regarding stepparent behavior can be an effective, less confrontational solution.

This situation highlights the complexities of co-parenting in blended families, especially when dealing with issues like alcohol use by a stepparent. It underscores the importance of communication, negotiation, and legal guidance to ensure the safety and best interests of the children are prioritized.

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For specific legal guidance, please consult a qualified attorney.

 

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