There is a pervasive myth that divorce is always contentious, based on the assumption that the dissolution of marriage makes adversaries of partners. But many couples prove they can navigate the end of a union with mutual understanding and respect. For those looking to avoid the divisiveness of a courtroom, they can pursue a collaborative divorce.

The collaborative law process is a completely different approach to divorce than going to court.

Collaborative divorce allows couples to end their marriage with compassion and honesty.

During weeks or months of discussion, the parties air grievances, explain their points of view, and create resolutions that are unique to their family. The process lets them address a parent’s alcohol abuse without shame. A parent’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol could impact their ability to maintain a safe household and healthy relationships with the children. But it does not have to. Spouses can agree to alcohol monitoring during a collaborative divorce.

A remote device with facial recognition and tamper detection keeps one parent accountable for not using alcohol while assuring the other parent that their children are safe. Remote alcohol monitoring tools, like Soberlink, also provide family law professionals with court-admissible information regarding a client’s sobriety, instead of relying on each parent’s claims.

What Is Collaborative Divorce?

There is a pervasive myth that divorce is always contentious, based on the assumption that the dissolution of marriage makes adversaries of partners. But many couples prove they can navigate the end of a union with mutual understanding and respect. For those looking to avoid the divisiveness of a courtroom, they can pursue a collaborative divorce.

The collaborative law process is a completely different approach to divorce than going to court. Developed by Stu Webb in the 1990s and pioneered by Pauline Tesler soon after, collaborative law is a way for spouses to end their marriage by working together without any court intervention.

Collaborative divorce works by both parties agreeing not to take the matter to court and instead, exchange information and negotiate a resolution in good faith. In many situations, all the parties, including the attorneys, sign a contract agreeing to the process. The process can differ by state, but the end goal is to settle and not end up before a judge.

During the collaboration process, spouses sometimes decide to hire third parties. An accountant might be hired to review all of the finances and make recommendations for equitable solutions. They might have real property or other assets appraised by neutral professionals. They might hire a therapist or counselor to work with the children and provide a custody recommendation.

father and children

How Does Collaborative Divorce Work?

Collaborative divorce works by the parties freely exchanging information and asking all third parties, like accountants, counselors, and property appraisers, to do so as well. The spouses, along with their attorneys, work to reach agreements through formal and informal sessions. This takes time, but many family law professionals estimate collaborative divorces can be quicker and less costly than divorce litigation.

In some cases, spouses pursue formal mediation. They share the cost of hiring a neutral trained mediator to guide the conversation and facilitate communication.

During a collaborative divorce, spouses decide important issues, including:

  • What qualifies as jointly owned vs. independently owned property.
  • How to divide the jointly owned assets (the marital estate).
  • How to divide debt accrued during the marriage.
  • Who will remain living in the family home or whether it will be sold.
  • Who will remain responsible for the family pets.
  • How to divide legal child custody (the power to make important decisions for the children).
  • How to divide the children’s time between the two parents.
  • Who pays child support and how much.
  • Whether spousal support (alimony) is appropriate, and if so, how much and for how long.

Alcohol Abuse Can Impact the Divorce Resolution

One of the many benefits of collaborative divorce is that it allows each spouse to express their emotions, whereas, in court, emotions are pushed aside. You or your clients are free to convey anger, resentment, sadness, grief, fear, or any other emotion. This process requires each party to act with integrity, which includes speaking honestly about one or both parent’s alcohol abuse.

It is common for alcohol to be an issue during a divorce. Based on the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, researchers found that marital dissolution rates were 48.3 percent for those who had abused alcohol versus 30.1 percent for those who hadn’t. Collaborative divorce allows the parents to openly discuss the issue and find solutions in the children’s best interest, such as alcohol monitoring. Alcohol monitoring for collaborative divorce is underused and can truly be game changing for families.

Whether alcohol abuse is apparent or suspected, it erodes trust between spouses. Intoxication could have already affected the children in some way. Because of this, one parent’s alcohol use might make the other nervous about how much parenting time they should have and whether it should be unsupervised. 

What Is Alcohol Monitoring?

A solution that helps parents rebuild trust and ensure the children have a safe, healthy environment with each parent is a remote alcohol monitoring system. With an inconspicuous handheld device capable of facial recognition, the parent can document sobriety to ensure the children’s safety. A small device is essential for busy parents. Designed with ease-of-use and flexibility in mind, parents can be on the go with their kids and still stick to their schedule through discreet testing. This method of alcohol monitoring is non-invasive too, which means parents can avoid trips to labs, which remains important as COVID-19 continues to spread through communities.

As for the testing schedule, parents can work together with treatment providers to determine how many tests are appropriate and their timing throughout the day. Some alcohol monitoring systems like Soberlink give parents the option to test daily or only during parenting time. The purpose is accountability and transparency, not to inconvenience or create an unnecessary burden for a parent in recovery.

Over time, the test results create a record of the parent’s sobriety. This is important information for co-parents to have, but it also serves another purpose. Collaborative divorce can fail. If parents find themselves heading to court despite their best intentions, parents can provide a report to the court regarding test results.

Benefits of Using Alcohol Monitoring in Collaborative Divorce


The remote alcohol monitoring process offers several benefits. The parent who struggles with alcohol has structure and accountability—two factors that can greatly improve the chance of long-term recovery. Addiction to alcohol is a medical condition, and it has to be recognized and treated for a person to succeed in their recovery.

Alcohol monitoring is not a punitive measure like a breathalyzer or alcohol monitoring bracelet. It is not intended to punish a parent because of their struggle with alcohol. Instead, it is one of many strategies that can help them stay sober and remain an active part of their children’s lives.

Factual Evidence

The family law attorneys and other professionals involved gain important documentation of the parent’s willingness to collaborate and be held accountable. This goes a long way for spouses trying to create a new family dynamic during and after a divorce. Attorneys also gain evidence that the children are in a safe environment with a sober parent, which they can put forth as a reason why the parents should have an equal amount of parenting time.

Trust and Assurance

The other parent can rest assured that their children are in safe hands during parenting time. It is possible for an alcohol monitoring system to automatically send test results to the other parent or interested parties. The concerned parent knows, in real-time, whether their children are with a mom or dad who is sober or has consumed alcohol.

Best Interests of the Children

The children can benefit significantly from a parent’s alcohol monitoring. A divorce is a time of significant change for kids, no matter their age or circumstance. The separation is even more dramatic if they are suddenly unable to see one of their parents. An alcohol monitoring system provides children the chance to spend time with both their parents during their formative years when they need their presence, attention, and love the most.



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DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.


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