How do family courts test for drugs in child arrangement cases?

There are several types of legal drug tests that a solicitor or court can request in order to show a parent’s use of drugs during child arrangement cases such as gaining samples from hair from the head and body, nail clippings, saliva and urine.

A child’s emotional, physical and educational needs will always be paramount when the courts consider their decision in child arrangements cases. They will go through a number of factors from a “welfare checklist” such as how any changes may affect the child, and the parents’ ability to provide for their needs. 

These will be considered along with any instances of abuse, neglect or violence. In this context, to prove that an individual is drug-free, a court can ask for a drug test, which would then become a legal requirement, before any decision is made in the best interests of the child.

Types of court-ordered drug tests

Samples have to be collected under stringent and supervised conditions so that they can stand up in court as evidence without concern that there has been any tampering or adulteration of the samples.

If there is insufficient hair to test, nail clippings can provide up to a 6 month period of drug use.
Although saliva testing can reveal results within an hour, it can only detect drug use after ingestion for up to 48 hours.
Similarly, urine drug testing is also a “narrow-window” form of testing as it can only detect drugs for up to a few days, although it depends on the type of drugs that have been taken.

For instance, cocaine and cannabis can stay in the urine for almost up to a month. Consequently, it’s not unusual for family law courts to normally use hair drug testing (also known as a hair strand test) because it can detect drug use for a relatively longer period of approximately up to 12 months.
Although a positive test may be found, it does not mean that a parent will automatically lose custody of their child. However, the drug test, along with other specific reports will be taken into account by the court before a decision is made on any arrangements and contact orders

Who pays for the testing?

If the case is requested by a judge and it is being handled by a local authority, the cost of the testing may be covered by legal aid, if certain criteria are met.
In most cases, where the case is brought by a private individual, for example, in a child arrangement (previously known as custody) dispute, the parties involved have to pay for the drug testing

Importance of drug tests in child arrangements cases

Although drug tests are not the only thing that judges consider when making a decision on child custody or contact orders, it’s important to realise that if a judge finds evidence to show that a child has come to harm while a parent was taking drugs or that drug use is likely to be harmful to the welfare of the child, the parent may be restricted from having contact with the child.

How Can GloverPriest Help?

At GloverPriest, we provide friendly and transparent family law advice. If you would like further help on child arrangements, please don’t hesitate to speak to one of our expert family lawyers today. Complete our enquiry form.

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