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Protecting your child from the abuse of drugs or alcohol by their other parent

A behavior that many parents will attempt to limit their child’s exposure to is that of drug and alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, many family law cases involve a parent needing to protect their child from the alcohol or drug abuse of the other parent.

Drug testing is a common occurrence in these circumstances. If a judge believes that concerns over drug and alcohol abuse are warranted, testing can occur as quickly as the day of a hearing on that subject. Meaning- if you set up a hearing to address this issue with a judge, the judge can make a phone call to bring a testing kit to the courtroom. A person in that line of work can administer the tests to both you and your child’s other parent with the results available sometimes as quickly as the following day.

Suppose the test results come back positive for you or your child’s other parent. In that case, it is likely that you will be restricted in your visitation with your child and will have to make do with supervised visitation until enough time passes to allay any fears of continued drug or alcohol abuse. Your attorney should be aware of the ins and outs of drug testing in conjunction with a family law case and how that drug testing can impact the proceedings.

Today’s blog post from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, will cover this subject in detail including the types of tests that can be administered and how dishonest parents can attempt to evade the consequences of their substance abuse by manipulating the results of tests.

What are the most common drug/alcohol testing methods that are administered in family law cases?

If you have asked for and been granted permission for drug testing to be conducted of your child’s other parent, you should know that the order will apply in the same manner to you. Expect to be drug tested as soon as the day of your hearing if the judge grants your request.

The time-tested methods for drug testing involve testing hair, urine, and nails. Alcohol testing is done the same way, with blood tests only being administered infrequently due to their being more invasive. You should be aware of the pros and cons of each testing type.

When we all think of drug testing, we probably envision a urine test. A testing facility can determine if a person’s urine sample is positive for drugs by looking for metabolites created in their system due to using a particular drug.

Many drugs can be tracked in urine for up to a week after using the drug. Marijuana is a bit of an outlier because it remains in your system longer than most drugs do. For urine test purposes, traces of marijuana can stay in your system for up to one month. It depends on how often and how much marijuana is consumed to determine how long the drug will show up in any urine screening.

I think if you ask any attorney you know if they have a story regarding a client or opposing party who attempted to evade the results of urinalysis, they will respond with an anecdote to entertain you. Many people will do their best to consume as much water as possible, heading into a situation where he or they may be drug tested. This “trick” does not work all that well most of the time.

Testers have fairly advanced methods for determining whether or not a urine sample has been unnaturally altered due to the over-consumption of water or any other diuretic. You would be asked to be tested again until a proper sample could be collected.

The other method that I can think of for skirting a urine test is to have a bag of someone else’s urine ready to submit in place of your own for testing. Again, the testers have a method to prevent this from happening. It involves nothing more complicated than having a neutral party observe the sample being collected to ensure that your urine is being used in the test.

Hair testing- you can run, but you can’t hide.

Whereas urine testing only allows testers to see back a relatively short amount of time to determine if drug or alcohol use has occurred, hair testing provides a significant length of time to evaluate from. It is possible that hair analysis can pick up drug use as far back as three months before administering the test.

Hair testing also allows a court to choose the type of drugs to be tested. A “five-panel” test will test for five substances, while a “fourteen-panel test” (you guessed it) will test for fourteen different substances. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be in line for testing on either account. The cost increases as you go up in testing more substances.

Be aware that hair testing is more easily manipulated than urine testing. For instance, your opposing party could cut their hair, dye it, or use a shampoo that affects the ability of testers to administer proper tests. Usually, hair tests are done in conjunction with other types of testing. Also- you can request that body hair be utilized for testing and hair from the head to avoid potential manipulation techniques.

Nail testing in family law cases

Perhaps the most effective, accurate, and least known drug testing method in family law cases is the testing of nails. Nail testing allows testers to go back the most extended length of time- up to six months from when the sample was taken. Toe or fingernails can be used. If you or your opposing party came prepared with finely manicured nails, then a tester can scrape a sample from the surface of your nails.

If you are in a position where you believe your opposing party needs to be tested for abuse of drugs or alcohol, you should file a motion with the judge to have them tested by all of the above available methods. A person may, in rare circumstances, be able to manipulate the results of a single test but to do for all three would be nearly impossible. Most judges have a preferred testing facility. You can either be ordered to attend a test in the facility, or the judge can bring testers to the courtroom to use the nearest restroom for testing administration.

While requesting drug and alcohol tests can be somewhat time-consuming, they can make an impact on your divorce or child custody case. We all rely upon hearsay and gossip to a certain extent regarding drug and alcohol use by people in our lives. If you have no means to keep track of your child’s other parent, then you probably don’t have firsthand knowledge if these allegations are true. Having multiple drug tests be administered can be the best way to know if substance abuse is occurring once and for all.

Suppose you are in a position where you need to defend against a positive drug test in a family law case that you are involved in. In that case, you should seek out experienced and effective representatives immediately. Doing so can be the difference between having your rights to spend time with your child severely undercut by a judge.

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