In high conflict divorce cases where child custody must be decided, there may be allegations made of one or both parties abusing alcohol and/or drugs. One concern is that a parent with an addiction problem may not be able to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child. Furthermore, if the abuse involves illegal substances, the home environment may not be safe. For these reasons, accusations of alcohol or drug abuse must be considered when determining custody. Depending on what kind of evidence is offered in a custody case, the court can order alcohol and/or drug testing of the party against whom the allegations have been made.
Different Testing Methods
There are several methods of testing available with different detection advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, it is important to consider the time frame of usage that needs to be identified. The three principle methods of drug and alcohol testing involve a person giving samples of either urine, hair, or nails to be tested. Urinalysis provides a short window for detection, but can identify recent use of a substance, something that hair and nail testing cannot.
Additional testing methods available include breath analysis and blood testing. Test panels can range from a simple five-panel test that covers marijuana, cocaine, opiates, PCP, and amphetamines, to a comprehensive 17-panel test. The largest panel includes extended opiates. As a matter of cost control, the smallest panel necessary should be used as more extensive testing is more expensive.
Testing of hair enables a longer period of drug detection outside of approximately the two weeks prior to collection of the sample. This is because the growth of the hair occurs after the substance is used. Body hair provides a longer window for detection than hair from the head.
The longest period of drug and alcohol detection is available from nail testing. It is similar to hair testing in that it cannot detect any substance use from approximately two weeks before the sample is collected. Again, this is because the nail must grow after the substance is used. A toenail sample can show substance use up to a year prior to the sample.
Dealing with Positive Test Results
Whichever method of testing is used, the court will use the results, combined with other factors, to determine which party should have custody of the children. Testing positive for chronic alcohol use, illegal substances, or drugs that have not been prescribed for use can lead to an unfavorable outcome when it comes to obtaining child custody in a divorce settlement.
The court has several options for dealing with the parent who tests positive for drug and/or alcohol use. It can order supervision for that parent’s visitation time with the children or the other parent could be granted sole managing conservator of the children.
These orders can be modified, but only when the person in question can demonstrate to the court a convincing pattern of change and sobriety, which could make visitation in the best interest of the children.
Towson Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Provide Experienced Counsel in Child Custody Cases
At Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC our dedicated Towson child custody lawyers can provide skilled legal representation and advice for all matters regarding child custody. An initial consultation is free and confidential, so call us today at 443-589-0150 or contact us online. From our offices in Towson and Hunt Valley, we serve clients in the greater Baltimore area, including those in Bel Air, Columbia, Westminster, Essex, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County and throughout Maryland.