INDEPENDENT PARENTING WITH AN IMPAIRED PARENT
The best possible outcome in a divorce is that you have two healthy parents who can get along and parent the children jointly. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in the real world. What if the parent you are dealing with is an alcoholic or addicted to drugs? Chances are that they are not making the best parenting decisions. Dave Hakenson, the Deschutes County Mediator, works with couples where this is an issue. There is a safety parenting plan that can be put in place to protect the children. Obviously, it is not okay to drive drunk with your children or stay out all night partying while your kids are left unattended. Sadly, sometimes this happens for whatever reason. Often, Judges in cases such as these will put court orders in place to protect children. A common order that I see is that neither parent shall consume alcohol or drugs during their parenting time with the kids. This is a win/win situation because the children have a parent who is not impaired while spending time with them. Neither parent is singled out because both parents have to follow the no alcohol rule. Surely, parents can go without drinking during their parenting time and if they can’t do this then there is a real problem. The Court is always concerned with what is in the best interests of the child. Should parents be showing R rated movies to smaller kids? No, that is not in the best interests of the children. Hopefully, the two parents can communicate and one parent can suggest that R rated movies may be harmful to their underage children. Sadly, the court can’t legislate if a parent doesn’t use good parenting skills but they can step in if the children are put in real danger such as driving drunk with the kids in the car. Counseling is always a good idea for children going through the trauma of a divorce. It might be extra beneficial if children are having to deal with an impaired parent. It certainly makes parenting your kids a lot tougher. Keep in mind, no matter how impaired the parent is, the children love that person. It does no one any good to run that parent into the ground in front of your kids. Instead, encourage that parent to make better decisions and put safeguards in place that protect your kids (no use of alcohol or drugs during parenting time). The impaired parent is truly doing damage to their relationship with the children and hopefully they will get some help. In the mean time, have patience and keep your kids as safe as you can.