Modifying access arrangements when one parent has an issue with alcohol or other drugs

29 July 2016
 Categories: , Blog


If you have separated from your partner and they have an addiction to alcohol and other drugs, you may be concerned about their ability to care for your children when you are not there. Here are some of the ways that the Family Court can manage this issue, whilst acting in the best interests of the child. 

Insist on supervised visits

If your partner has a serious history with addiction and you can prove, either through police and medical records or independent assessment that they are struggling with addiction currently you may be able to get their access visits supervised. There are several options for supervised visits including using Children's Contact Services. Visits can either occur at a contact centre or at another venue that the child might like, such as a playground. During these sessions, a contact supervisor will be close by and can redirect any inappropriate behaviours as well as accessing support for your ex-partner if they appear to be under the influence of drugs during the access session. 

Restrictions on certain activities

If your ex-partner has a history of alcohol abuse and drink driving you can often get their access to the car restricted, for example, requiring that their car be fitted with a breath lock so that they have to have a clean alchohol breath test reading before they can start the car. You can also get certain locations excluded from access visits, so that they cannot take your child to places where alcohol or drugs are likely to be consumed. 

Restriction of access

One of the governing cases covering drug use in the Family Court is  the 2008 case of Hogan & Hogan. Whilst the father in this case had a strong and positive relationship with his children, due to long-term marijuana use his access to his children was limited to 4 consecutive nights which the court believed was a reasonable period for him to abstain from using drugs. Recreational drug users may have similar restrictions placed on the duration of their acess. 

Random testing

If there is a history of drug use but some debate about whether illegal drug use is occurring the parent may be asked to submit regular drug tests such as urinalysis or hair tests. If these tests continue to come up clean the parent may be allowed to maintain independent access, but if not they may need to revert to supervised access. This can often help to identify issues such as relapses in addiction in a proactive way. 

If you are worried that your ex-partner's drug use makes them unfit to have access to your children you should seek help from an experienced family lawyer