By Chris Kramer
Divorce courts have a new trick up their sleeves: a remote tester of parental capability!
Well, sort of. According to reports from Metro West Daily News, family court judges in Massachusetts have discovered a new way to monitor parents accused of alcohol abuse during divorce cases. Their secret? It's a little device known as the Sobrietor, which has been traditionally used for DUI-monitoring purposes.
The Sobrietor is a football-sized device that can be linked to a telephone line, according to reports. By using technology similar to that of a breathalyzer, the instrument tests breath alcohol content over the phone.
Though the Sobrietor is used predominantly for criminal purposes, innovative judges have reportedly found them valuable to divorce cases as well. Apparently, he-said/she-said type accusations are common during some divorce cases. And, until now, judges had few options for determining who was telling the truth.
Now, thanks to the Sobrietor, judges can test parents accused of alcohol abuse without actually having to make home visits. But, sources indicate, just because the technology is available doesn't mean it's widespread. When accusations of alcohol abuse are made, judges evidently consider several factors before insisting on a Sobrietor.
Past trouble with drinking, a record of DUIs and the specific circumstances of each divorce case are among the considerations involved in deciding who gets a Sobrietor and who doesn't.
According to the website for Behavioral Interventions, the creator of the Sobrietor says that the device works based on voice recognition and other complex sensors.
First, a user creates a "voiceprint" so the machine can recognize him. The user must say several words, until the machine is capable of identifying the user by voice.
At each random test (for example, at intervals determined by the divorce court), the Sobrietor rings loudly and prompts the user to verify his identity by repeating the test words. Once the user's identity has been confirmed, he must blow into the mouthpiece of the phone, much like a normal breath alcohol test.
The machine apparently has several safeguards in place to prevent users from cheating - a temperature sensor can recognize handing the machine off to a friend, for instance. And, if the recorded information doesn't match up with the baseline info, the device registers a failure.
One judge has allegedly called the Sobrietor a "terrific tool" for divorce courts. Because courts can monitor parents remotely with the Sobrietor, they can supposedly keep track of more people more efficiently. This means that children benefit, since child custody decisions can be made with accurate information about parental habits.
For custodial parents with concerns about their divorced partners, the Sobrietor provides an excellent way to determine whether or not those concerns are valid and should be addressed.
For the person being monitored, the Sobrietor offers great incentive to stay sober, since failed tests can reportedly result in serious punishments like jail time.
Plus, the Sobrietor can help detect whether or not a parent might have substance abuse problems and need counseling or help outside the divorce court.
Sometimes used in tandem with an electronic monitoring device, the Sobrietor could change the way divorce and child custody cases are handled across the country!