Minnesota courts consider the best interests of the child when resolving parenting time disputes.  One of those best interest factors includes the physical and mental health of all parties (Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subd. 1(a)(9)).  Problems with chemical dependency would fall into this category.  In In re Marriage of Viele, No. A07-212 (Minn.App. 2007), the court awarded sole physical custody to mother after finding that father’s drinking was a concern within this best interest factor.

Under Minnesota Statute § 518.175, subd. 1(a), if the court finds, “that parenting time with a parent is likely to endanger the child’s physical or emotional health or impair the child’s emotional development, the court shall restrict parenting time with that parent as to time, place, duration, or supervision and may deny parenting time entirely, as the circumstances warrant.”

So, if a parent’s problem with chemical dependency leads to behavior that will put the child at any sort of risk, the court may not allow that parent any parenting time at all, or may restrict the parenting time by requiring supervision.  Examples of this kind of risk-taking behavior include driving with the child in the car after consuming alcohol, drinking related altercations, and drinking so much as to seriously affect general health, or ability to care for the child.

What is also important to note is that the problem with alcohol must be a present problem, rather than a past issue.  In In re Marriage of Dittbrenner v. Dittbrenner, No. A06-947 (Minn.App. 2007), the trial court held that mother’s problems with alcohol were in the past.  However, on appeal, the court of appeals was not convinced that mother’s record of alcohol abuse in the past no longer continued to be a problem and remanded the case for further consideration.

Possible solutions to parenting time disputes with chemical dependency issues include agreeing to a parenting plan that imposes conditions on the party with chemical dependency including abstaining from alcohol and other mood-altering substances before and during parenting time and random alcohol testing.

If your case involves parenting time issues, please call us for a free consultation.

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