Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You

Monitoring Alcohol Use In Custody Cases

February 09, 2023 Attorney Billie Tarascio
Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
Monitoring Alcohol Use In Custody Cases
Show Notes Transcript

What happens to parenting time when one parent is struggling as an alcoholic? How does the other parent know with certitude that their child is safe when living with or visiting the alcoholic parent? Is the alcoholic parent at risk for losing precious parenting time?

These are all good questions. It's not uncommon for the non alcoholic parent to use the other parent's issues in court in order to protect a child.  But a parent in recovery may need a way to prove their sobriety in a way that is legitimate and acceptable by the court.

In this episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast, host Billie Tarascio talks with Chris Beck of Soberlink, a company that makes a real-time instant test device with verifiable evidence to let everyone know if someone is drinking or not.  

[00:00:00] Billie Tarascio: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Modern Divorce podcast. I'm your host Billie Tarascio, and I am excited today to be talking to an executive at soberlink. Now, many of you know that I 

am a big fan of Soberlink, and if you don't, if you haven't heard me talk about Soberlink, you're gonna learn a lot about.

Here in our episode, Chris Beck, welcome to the show. 

[00:00:28] Chris Beck: Well, thank you, Billie. Appreciate you having me. 

[00:00:31] Billie Tarascio: Absolutely. How are you doing today? 

[00:00:33] Chris Beck: You know, I can't complain. We're getting some sunshine here in North Carolina for the first time in a few days, so, you know, I start to get a little panicked when I don't see the sun, but, uh, got some sunshine today. It might be 40 degrees, but at least there's some sun. 

[00:00:46] Billie Tarascio: Well, you have a lovely positive attitude towards your sunny 43 weather. I will tell you Phoenicians are a bit more spoiled and we'd like to heat along with our sunshine . We might be experiencing similar weather today, Chris. . 

[00:00:59] Chris Beck: I hear [00:01:00] you. No, I'd love to be out in, in that Arizona area.

That desert out there is so beautiful. So I am jealous. 

[00:01:05] Billie Tarascio: Yeah. And so you're from Orange County, is that correct? 

[00:01:08] Chris Beck: I am. I was born and raised in, in Orange County. I went to University of California, Irvine and then I moved out to, uh, North Carolina and, uh, met a girl out here and. . Yeah. You know, the rest is history.

[00:01:21] Billie Tarascio: The rest is history, the rest is history. So you are an executive with soberlink. For those of our viewers who don't know what Soberlink is, what is soberlink? 

[00:01:31] Chris Beck: So we do alcohol monitoring for child custody cases. Um, our actual technology is a breathalyzer. and it's combined with facial recognition software here, where it, I confirms your identity during the breath test, and then it sends those results to anyone that's part of the monitoring agreement in real time.

So that can be about 60 seconds after we submit the test, so you know if that person is sober or not. 

[00:01:59] Billie Tarascio: I [00:02:00] just remembered you guys sent me one of those devices. Yeah, it's not turned on. But I, but I have one and I'd really like to turn it on and actually demo it for people. Like take a drink and then blow in it and so see what happens and then maybe have two and see what happens.

So maybe we can work that out. What do you think, Chris? 

[00:02:18] Chris Beck: I think I can walk you through that. No problem. 

[00:02:19] Billie Tarascio: Awesome. I think that would be so, so interesting. So fun. And the reason so, and I read your website, I was looking at your materials and you take the position that you are really there to advocate for people with alcohol use disorder.

[00:02:33] Chris Beck: Yes. I mean, our passion since day one has been in the treatment side of this whole unit. And, um, with, with that, you know, we want, our passion is to be that continued care arm for those treatment facilities to help that. Patient after their 28 day stay to actually continue their recovery journey and to document their sobriety, make sure that treatment that they received during that stay, um, continues to resonate.[00:03:00] 

Um, family law became part of our business because of the, of how connected it is. With that. I mean, we do see a lot of Divorce because of addiction and, um, we saw that our technology was needed out there. They, there needed to be a way to. Correctly identify sobriety during parenting time, and I call it an empowerment tool because I feel like we're empowering that person who has been struggling to give them the ability.

To parent and to be with their child. And we all know that having both parents after a Divorce is, is really the, uh, the best thing in, in my mind. And, and make sure that they both have part of, of their, uh, child's life and can be a parent. So we believe that this technology can really help facilitate that.


[00:03:47] Billie Tarascio: Totally agree. And I've seen it happen. I've seen it happen. Yeah. But both times that I have been involved with Soberlink, I've represented the sober parent. And so I hadn't thought of Soberlink as being [00:04:00] a real, um, advocacy tool for the alcoholic parent because I think it's, it works that way for both.

So for the sober parent, and in, in both of the cases that I worked on, the alcoholic parent was abusive when drinking. Yeah. And, and so by removing alcohol during parenting time, it, it was such a win-win for the child who was safe for the parent that struggled with alcohol because they could have unsupervised uninterrupted quality parenting time. And for the sober parent who didn't have to be afraid, like it was just, it was a game changer, it changed the relationships of these families. 

[00:04:43] Chris Beck: Yeah. You really get to a point where during that process there was this trust that was lost. And this device almost allows you to have that open conversation and earn that, that trust back.

[00:04:56] Billie Tarascio: And I think that's super important, um, in this whole process. . [00:05:00] The other thing that is really interesting about it from my perspective is even if the drinking parent does not agree that their alcohol use is a problem and wants to continue drinking when they don't have their child, they can. Whereas any of the other testing that the court will order requires you to be sober all the time, which people really feel like is a, is an infringement upon their, their liberties and their rights.

[00:05:25] Chris Beck: Sure, yeah. Our most popular program is our Level one program, which is around parenting time. And you know, that modern client would be asked to test before the parenting exchange, maybe two to three hours, um, during the parenting time, every two to three hours during the parenting time. And then after, um, the parenting time has concluded.

if there's an overnight, maybe they would do a test right before they go to bed, and then in the morning, of course. But this program has been extremely popular and because of our real time, um, way of presenting the data, um, we're able to facilitate that [00:06:00] where, like you said, with these other technologies, more traditional like an ankle bracelet or going down to a lab to get a urinalysis, that's just not possible.

[00:06:08] Billie Tarascio: No. 

[00:06:08] Chris Beck: You know, so this has been a great way to, um, do a level one where parenting time only. , yes, I still want to have my glass of wine at night with dinner, but I wanna make sure that, you know, I'm documenting my sobriety during my parenting time with my, with our kids, you know, so, mm-hmm. . Great. 

[00:06:27] Billie Tarascio: So talk to me about the, the different plans that Soberlink offers.

[00:06:31] Chris Beck: Yeah, so I mentioned level one there where it's parenting time only, and we do have a level two program, which is daily testing. That's seven days a week. That's more of the treatment model of what we provide. So you're doing your testing on a schedule, so you're, you're actually, uh, Trying to create good habits, you're trying to test on a schedule that is repetitive.

Mm-hmm. , so you're actually retraining the brain and, you know, the addiction, um, professionals that we actually consulted with early on when they were trying to develop a [00:07:00] really comprehensive program, they were saying that's really important to this program is that you create new habits. because after they say after a year of creating these new habits, you actually have a cognitive change in your behavior and you're able to do more, you know, that new thing more than what was common in the past.

Right. Which was that drinking. Mm-hmm. . So, you know, we're really, uh, proud of that program as well. You know, we have a scheduler that actually. Make the modern client aware of when it's time to test and they'll have a window to test within. But it's not like the random testing of the past where if you had to order a, like a, a urinalysis, you were like, okay, call into your station.

Yeah. See if it's time for you to take your test. No matter if you have your kids or not, you gotta go down and take that test. And that just seemed like something that's just in the back of your head causing a lot of anxiety. And in some cases it might be. Tipping point for that person to drink more. You know, we wouldn't want that.

We want something [00:08:00] easy, less intrusive. 

[00:08:02] Billie Tarascio: Right. 

[00:08:02] Chris Beck: That's where we're at. Yeah. 

[00:08:04] Billie Tarascio: I mean, it's embarrassing. It takes time away from work. If somebody doesn't have a car, they now have to like figure out how to get to the testing facility. It's, and I've seen parents who are really. Miss a test or have it be diluted or not, not go to the right facility and have their family law case messed up.

And it just, it really takes away from somebody's humanity and does not treat them with any sort of respect. And I feel like Soberlink is effective at getting everybody what they need. You know, the information, the sobriety Correct. Yeah. But, but respectfully. 

[00:08:45] Chris Beck: No. Absolutely, and that's really what it's about is it's, you can almost do this discreetly without the child even knowing.

I mean, even during your parenting time, you can go to the restroom. Mm-hmm. , do a test, make sure you're compliant. Then we can go on. Mm-hmm. , I mean, You [00:09:00] know, it's, it's a, um, interesting thing when I got involved in this and to see how the orders used to be phrased. You know, you couldn't drink 24 hours prior to, um, seeing your kids and, and no one knew how to actually comply to that order.

I mean, there was, there was no way of knowing. So it was like everyone was, kind of, had their hands up in the air and I was like, wow, there's, there's an easy solution for this and, and you know, it can provide really good documentation and be. Really easy to, to execute really easy. 

[00:09:30] Billie Tarascio: Yeah. Yeah. That is fantastic.

Is the technology, uh, when was the technology developed? . 

[00:09:37] Chris Beck: So we launched company in 2011. Yeah. Um, that was when we first started. It was actually a little bit different of a device. We actually had a, um, do you remember the old Blackberries? Mm-hmm. . So it actually connected with a Blackberry and then that's how it trans transferred the, um, the results to our secure web portal.

And now it's a little more technical. We have two devices now that we offer. We have a connect [00:10:00] device that connects to your iPhone. Mm-hmm. . Android phone and then goes to our secure web portal, or we have a cellular device, which is what I call the plug and play. So that's super easy to use. You turn it on, you blow into it.

Done . Cool. And uh, very quick. Yes.

[00:10:15] Billie Tarascio: Are there price differences between the different devices? 

[00:10:18] Chris Beck: Yeah, so, um, it's about a $200 difference, uh, between the two prices. So our fees are, you have an upfront cost of the device and then that is dependent on how long you are actually going. Use the program. So we'll take about $200 off if you agree to a four month.

So, We see our average being about eight months. And like I said, those addiction professionals said that the cognitive change happens in a year, so a little less than a year, but that's what we see so far with the data. Mm-hmm. . Um, but yeah, we'll take some money off if you agree to the four months and then, um, we bill in arrears for the monthly monitoring of the technology.

[00:10:56] Billie Tarascio: Do you, can you tell who's paying for it? Is it usually [00:11:00] the person who's using the device or is it the other parent that's asking for. 

[00:11:04] Chris Beck: Yeah, that's a great question and it really comes up to how it got introduced because you're right, if the concern party is the one that's bringing it to light, a lot of times they'll be the one paying for it.

But I would say typically, and I would say in about 65% of the cases, it is the mono client that is the paying party. Mm-hmm. . Now I have seen some creative. You know, orders come through where the concern party pays until there's a positive. Then when there's a positive, then the monitored client pays. Sure. So that's understandable.

Or a split payment. 50 50. Mm-hmm. , I see that a lot as well. . 

[00:11:38] Billie Tarascio: Yeah. Um, and does your, does your website allow for both parents to make partial payments or how does that work? 

[00:11:46] Chris Beck: Yeah, so from a partial payment standpoint, you would call in mm-hmm. , and it's a little bit outside of, of our shopping cart that we provide.

Mm-hmm. , but you can do a 50 50 split. Um, if you call in, um, during the activation process and you can get that 50 50, [00:12:00] anything outside of that, a little more creative, you'd probably. Figure that one out with the two parties, , you could probably get creative but can't do it through our site. 

[00:12:10] Billie Tarascio: How are you connecting to parents?

How are people like lawyers and parents finding out about you? 

[00:12:16] Chris Beck: Yeah, so a lot of times it's attorneys who are recommending the technology just because they're trying to find solutions to the problem that's in front of 'em. Mm-hmm. , and whether you're on the side of the accused or on the side of the concerned. It doesn't matter.

They're, they're both, like you said earlier, it's a solution for both and it can work for both parties. So we try and find that, that, you know, we resonate really well with mental health professionals even, um, we, we do a lot of education with mental health professionals that do a lot of family law practice.

So, um, you see someone like a neutral like that, that's being able to, um, recommend our products, but attorneys knowing about it, um, bring it up to the judge. Really what we see a lot [00:13:00] is the parties actually agreeing to use it before the, the judge even has to say anything. They're like, okay, well this is, this is a great way to alleviate the fears that I have, or this is a great way to prove my sobriety during that time with my child.

So however it gets phrased. But yeah, it's typically facilitated through the attorney. 

[00:13:19] Billie Tarascio: Okay. All right. That's interesting because I would think that, you know, the most important person to know about this should be the judge. But I don't know that all the family court judges do know. 

[00:13:30] Chris Beck: Yeah. So. Judges are, are an interesting, um, group.

They have to be very neutral, you know, um, they would love to recommend Soberlink, but they cannot, um, this is something that they can say, well, you know, we would love to have, I'm gonna order some type of monitoring, and it's up to the parties to decide what monitoring they want to choose. Um, now if we were a for for pro a for um, a charity type product, you know, maybe that would be different.

But since we're a for-profit, [00:14:00] ah, it's very hard for them to say, uh, you have to use Sober Link. 

[00:14:04] Billie Tarascio: That's interesting because, uh, I'll tell you, judges will order our Family Wizard or different parenting apps. So, and I'm not aware of competitors. Do you have competitors? 

[00:14:17] Chris Beck: Yeah. Well, we do. I mean, a competitor is really the lab.

I mean, that's a competitor of ours or a ankle bracelet. That's okay. That's technically a, you know, competition that someone could use. Yeah. 

[00:14:30] Billie Tarascio: But no, there's no other digital, you know, at home alcohol monitoring devices. Is that, is that correct? 

[00:14:38] Chris Beck: Not necessarily. There are others out there. Yeah. Yeah. There are other out others out there. I believe SCRAM who has the ankle bracelet also offers a remote, um, technology. Um, . Even, even our partners who bought our criminal justice side of the business offer a product just like this called sl. Mm-hmm. two. Mm-hmm. . But they use it on the [00:15:00] criminal side of, of the courts. Mm-hmm. , so more for probation and D U I.

Mm-hmm. . But they all have their different, you know, things that are good and maybe not so good. Right. Sure. Okay. You have to decide what your clients are comfortable. . 

[00:15:15] Billie Tarascio: Yeah. Well I've never heard of those. I do know about, you know, labs, cuz those have been around a long time. Yeah. Where do you see the future for soberlink?

[00:15:24] Chris Beck: Hmm. That's a great question. You know, we have really looked out into the future to try and figure out what we can help with and really when we look. Who we want to be is we wanna be a thought leader around addiction, around substance abuse and make sure that we can provide solutions. So we're always looking for that technology that can help, um, you know, mom and dad or, or these co-parents to better parent mm-hmm.

And, um, if we can bring technology mm-hmm. forward mm-hmm. to facilitate that, then we're definitely going to do that. We know that, [00:16:00] um, universities cross country, there's a few in on top of my mind that are doing, um, research and breathalyzers around thc, so marijuana, and once that kind of gets to the next stage where it becomes a remote technology such as this uh, you might, might think that's, that's something that we would be excited about. Yeah. But it has to be, I think it, you know, what we wanna make sure is that, you know, it is something that we're trying to assist in the best interest of the child and making sure that it's the right product that are going to help both parties.

I don't want it to favor one or the other, and that's really important to us as a company going. . 

[00:16:42] Billie Tarascio: Yeah. Well, I, I, I definitely think that you've done that. Um, I've def definitely, because as I said, when I read your marketing materials, it was geared towards one parent, and I have advocated it to that other parent, so I really, yeah, really do think it works for both.

And I, and I'm glad that you mentioned marijuana, because sometimes when I talk about this, [00:17:00] um, parents will say, well, how, how are we gonna track opioids. How are we gonna track marijuana? How are we gonna track cocaine? Or whatever the, you know, you know, insert addiction. So it's interesting that there is, um, different technology coming from marijuana.

Uh, is there any talk of monitoring for other types of illegal drugs still?

[00:17:22] Chris Beck: Um, you know, I'm sure there's research going on, but from a remote way to do it. Mm-hmm. , not necessarily. I mean, maybe, we'll, we'll get a little more creative. Mm-hmm. , um, a lot of times, um, chain of custody becomes a big issue when we're talking about, um, getting a, a urine sample done from the comfort of your home, right?

Mm-hmm. . . Um, but that's why people have to go to a lab to get a urinalysis because a lot of times it's ordered as observed and that becomes, um, very difficult to do at the comforts of your home. And that's what is so unique about our technology is that you are taking a test, the comfort of [00:18:00] your home or with your child or, or you know, by yourself.

But we're confirming the identity through technology and then we're sending it to our secure web portal. So you know, you have an unbias. way of confirming that identity and making sure that it is, you know, the monitored client, 

[00:18:20] Billie Tarascio: right? It can take a picture. Mm-hmm. can't take a picture of you peeing. That wouldn't work.

[00:18:25] Chris Beck: Yeah, I don't, don't, don't think I wanna do that. . 

[00:18:29] Billie Tarascio: It wouldn't work. Maybe you can develop technology that could hear

[00:18:36] Chris Beck: Yeah. I don't even know if I wanna go down that road, but Yes. Yes. I'm just glad you guys are working on developing it because it's, it's, the whole thing is a, is a fantastic opportunity and I don't think that you've scratched the surface with market share. I really don't. Um, I think. Not everybody knows about it.

It's a fabulous tool. Um, and, uh, I think you're just, you're doing great work. [00:19:00] 

Thank you. No, we appreciate it. You know, it really makes my day when I, when I see someone come and write a review about their experience with our product, and they're like, I was so pessimistic about doing it. I hated it. I hated the concept of it, and then I got to use it.

I did a whole reversal and it's amazing the things that it allowed me to do as far as be with my kids or have a better relationship with my ex. And that's really the things that motivate us and drive us to continue to improve our product each and every day.

[00:19:29] Billie Tarascio: That's fantastic. That's really fantastic.

[00:19:32] Chris Beck: Yeah. Thanks. 

[00:19:33] Billie Tarascio: Um, the only thing that I hear people complain about is cost. Um, sure. And I'd like you to address.

[00:19:42] Chris Beck: Yes. Uh, well, I would say the, the average cost of our product, if you take it for about a year is a little over $2,000. The upfront cost and then, then the monthly monitoring. I break that down to 365 days. That's, I don't know, something like five. It's just under five [00:20:00] 50 probably. If I, my math in my head, it's not that fast and I apologize , but just under five 50 and I think.

And I hate to say this, but I think about going to a restaurant and then I get a soda, or I get a beer at a restaurant. 

I guess Service that you don't see, you know, from a, a computing standpoint. And it's expensive to keep all this live and runny cuz if it ever goes down, someone's not gonna be able to see their kids and I can't afford that.

Neither can you as the attorney, you don't want your client not to be able to see their kids, so Right. We, we take expec extreme cost to make sure that we never go down. 


And you know, that's kind of how I, I talk about costs, but 

[00:20:42] Billie Tarascio: yeah, that's really interesting. 

[00:20:44] Chris Beck: With that said, , we do have a family assistance program.

Hmm. So, something that not a lot of attorneys know about, but it is on our website, under our attorney's page, is that if we do have a client that ha meets the indigent status of their county, [00:21:00] we will give them a device plus the monitoring fees for free. 

[00:21:04] Billie Tarascio: Wow. 

[00:21:05] Chris Beck: Yeah. So the attorney has to take the case pro bono, but Got it.

Typically they're going through legal aid maybe, or Sure. Whatnot. So we do have program and it's used very often. We've had over 75 clients using that products maybe, I guess just in a year and a half that came out. So it is, um, gaining some traction and we wanna make sure we're able to give back. We wanna make sure we're able to serve those clients who are less fortunate and not so affluent and, you know, we wanna make sure our technology is available for everybody.

[00:21:38] Billie Tarascio: That's wonderful. That's absolutely wonderful. Thanks. Two other ways that I think about cost. When I think about the cost of soberlink first, if you're not getting parenting time, you're going to pay more in child support. . So getting yourself that parenting time is going to give you a credit on the child support calculator, which will likely wipe out any cost of soberlink.

And if you do end [00:22:00] up needing supervised parenting time, that has quite a cost to it. Yes. And then the third way is if you get ordered to go test at a facility, I mean, all those things we talked about, plus the time off work and the driving there, so, To me, I think the cost is honestly pretty nominal. Um, but that's not true for everyone.

And I'm so happy that you've got that indigent program because there are families out there who really, really need this and actually can't afford it. And that's, that's just great news. , 

[00:22:30] Chris Beck: I appreciate it. Yeah. It's something that we we're passionate about and, and it's our way of giving back a little bit and you know, I think it's, it's touched a lot of people and, and we always have them right back.

I think they're the population that probably write in a lot and say thanks, and that's really rewarding to us. 

[00:22:46] Billie Tarascio: That's fantastic. Well, Chris, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it. If you all have enjoyed this episode, make sure to download it, rate it, send it on to your friends, and check out our past episodes.

Make sure to rate that [00:23:00] you can find this podcast on any place that you will listen to your podcast. Thank you so much, Chris, and have a great day. 

[00:23:05] Chris Beck: Thanks, again. You too. Enjoy that weather out there. 

[00:23:08] Billie Tarascio: Bye. Thanks so much for listening to the Modern Divorce podcast. Remember, anything you've heard today or anything you read online is not the replacement for actual consultation with an attorney and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Even if you called in and we spoke to you, you are anonymous and we don't have your details and you have not become a client of Modern Law.

However, we would love to speak with you, or you should seek out the advice of legal counsel or counseling or any other expert near you, and if you have an idea for a show topic or you need to speak with an attorney in Arizona, you can reach me at ..