Will a history of drug and alcohol misuse prevent you from spending time with your children?
Our specialist family and children law firm McAlister Family Law has been covering the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie relationship difficulties, currently making headlines around the world, in an informative series of blogs. Today Associate Melissa Jones look at Brad Pitt’s history of drug and alcohol misuse, and examines whether this would affect a separated parent’s contact with their children.
It is a matter of record that Brad Pitt has battled addictions to both alcohol and marijuana for many years, and attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for more than a year after his now ex-wife Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from him in 2016.
“I can’t remember a day since I got out of college when I wasn’t boozing or had a spliff, or something.” Pitt told GQ Style in 2017, several months after Angelina Jolie, with whom he shares six children, filed for divorce. “I’m really happy to be done with all of that. I mean I stopped everything except boozing when I started my family.”
Child contact and the law
The law, as it stands, presumes that it is in the children’s best interests for each parent, even when they have separated, to continue to be involved in the lives of any and all of their children, unless such involvement may subject them to a risk of harm.
This misuse of alcohol, drugs – both prescribed and illegal ones – often feature in cases coming before the family court, where one parent wants to prevent contact with the couple’s children because of concerns around the safety of the children. That allegation may set in motion assessment, by the courts, CAFCASS or Social Services, of the risks that may be posed to the children involved.
As family law solicitors, we are all too familiar with such cases coming before family court, and it is not unusual for an ex-partner to allege the other parent should have only limited, or indeed no, contact, with the couple’s children because of previous drug and alcohol misuse and the risk such misuse poses to those children.
What measures can the court take?
The court has a number of ways it will both establish any potential risk and manage it:
– it can make regular testing and monitoring of alcohol and drugs, which might include hair strand testing, breathalysing pre and post child contact, and/or the wearing of a SCRAM bracelet*
– it can require an undertaking that the parent will not consume alcohol or drugs when having contact
– it can require the parent’s attendance on specific therapeutic and remedial courses
With parents that do have difficulties like those outlined above, from the courts’ perspective, there are ways of working through them so that children can maintain positive relationships with both parents.
*Like a breathalyser for the ankle, the SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM CAM) bracelet provides 24/7 transdermal alcohol testing, automatically sampling the wearer’s perspiration every 30 minutes.