In a June unreported opinion, the Court upheld a ruling that involved a history of alcoholism. This is a hot-button issue that comes up more often than it should. One side of this issue typically tries to oversell the substance abuse issue, and the other side often cites to good behavior and ongoing treatment to overcome this issue. The end result at the lower court in this case was that the Court took the middle road and allowed unsupervised visitation based on these factors, but denied, temporarily long-term visitation in the form of a week-long visitation stating that the father was not there yet.
In the case, the father had a history of alcoholism. The issue at the Circuit Court level was whether the father had reformed enough to engage in unsupervised visitation. The father had been clean and sober for three years. However, before that he had violated the Court Order that he abstain from alcohol and tobacco use. Starting three years ago, however, he engaged in regular testing, went to AA, and had an active sponsor. Since that time, he maintained his sobriety.
The Court found that the father was ready for unsupervised visitation. The father was awarded visitation every other weekend and every other Thursday. Holidays were split between the parents in a rather complicated scheme. However, the Court also found that the father was not quite “ready” for long-term visitation such as a week-long vacation.
The issues on appeal however did not focus on the father’s alcoholism. Rather, the issues were are the propriety of whether an attorneys’ fee award in favor of the mother was proper. The mother had filed a motion for contempt for the failure to abstain from alcohol and tobacco in the years prior to the father’s sobriety. This failure, according to the mother necessitated the filing of the motion for contempt, as well as private investigator fees to prove the failure to abstain.
The Circuit Court denied fees. However, the consent order entered into by the parties provided that fees could be allowed. The Court did not address this in the initial decision. As such, the case was remanded for the determination as to whether a sanction for attorneys’ fees and costs was appropriate.
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