This is not a perfect world we live in and few of us are perfect and free from vices. There is, however, a difference between imperfections and either addiction and/or mental illness that could impair a person’s ability to parent their children. Often, when these issues arise, we try to build safeguards into agreements to protect the children where there is a history of alcoholism, drug abuse or significant mental illness.
These are always tricky cases because the infirm party often (1) is in denial or at least downplays the severity of the issue, (2) doesn’t want their problem in writing in a written agreement; (3) there is no agreement as to whether there even is a problem; etc. As such, there are times that we do our best to put as much teeth as possible into agreements to avoid the cost of trial, not over the actual parenting time, but the protections to be put in place when someone falls off the wagon. With compromise, however, comes the chance, not necessarily of actual risk to the children (thought that certainly is possible too) but the possibility of putting the kids in danger and being left to fix a problem after damage has been done.
The title of this post is came to me after reading the Y.A.B. v. A.C.B. unreported Appellate Division decision released on November 28, 2012. In that case, despite evidence that he former husband, who had acknowledged alcohol issues, may have been drinking (private investigator reports showing him buying alcohol, Facebook pictures of him holding a beer and a Certification from an ex-girlfriend regarding the husband’s alcohol use), and protective language in the agreement, not only was his parenting time not meaningfully curtailed, but the ex-wife was seriously chastised for bringing her application.