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Can the Court Order a Drug Test in a Family Law Dispute?

At least one million Texans struggle with alcohol use disorder, and many more deal with drug dependency. Some abuse chemicals to the point that they are suffering physically and are addicted. If you are involved in a divorce or child custody dispute, then a judge might order that you take a drug test. You might even be subject to ongoing testing or alcohol monitoring for the duration of your case.

Please call Tad Nelson and Associates to talk with our League City child custody lawyer about how you should respond to any testing request. We can help strategize what to do if you actually do have an alcohol problem.

Why Drug Testing Matters

Alcohol or drug use often comes into play in any custody dispute. A judge will decide custody by considering anything relevant to a child’s best interest. Factors can include:

  • A parent’s health
  • Whether a parent can provide a safe home for the child
  • Any criminal history
  • A history of domestic violence

Drugs and alcohol use can put children at risk. This is especially true if you have an arrest for DWI or any alcohol-related offense. Get a DWI with a child passenger, and a judge will see you as a clear threat to your child’s safety.

Alcoholism and drug addiction also impair your health. A parent strung out on drugs is more likely to end up in the hospital from an overdose and be unable to care for their children.

Do not be surprised if a judge orders that you take a drug or alcohol test. Typically, this will happen only after the other parent makes an allegation. There are different tests used. For example, a urine test can show drugs or alcohol currently in your system, but a hair or nail clippings test can detect drugs taken over a longer period.

Do You Have to Comply?

Yes. If you hope to get custody of your children, you can’t blow the test off. Many of our clients feel this is an invasion of privacy. But family law judges are empowered to order testing if they believe there is a reason for it. Judges don’t just demand testing on their own because they are curious. Usually, the other side makes a showing that you have a drug or alcohol problem.

We can fight any request for a drug test by arguing that there’s no reason to demand one. But it’s an uphill climb. You could also face contempt charges for refusal to comply.

Many tests have a short turnaround. A judge might order that you immediately take the test, which means you don’t have time to let drugs or alcohol pass through your system.

Should I Tell My Lawyer if I Have a Drug or Alcohol Problem?

Yes. Do this even before a judge orders testing. For example, we could help you enter a treatment program. We can help take some of the sting out of a negative drug test by admitting to the judge you have used drugs in the past. The worst thing is to blindside your attorney with a bad test result.

Who Pays?

The judge will decide. Often, the parent requesting the test pays.

Short-Term Consequences of Failing a Drug Test

Let’s say you fail the test. What are the consequences?

In the short term, you can lose custody of your children, and your visitation will be supervised. Since the judge perceives you as a threat, you must have another adult with you whenever you see the kids.

A judge will probably also order continuing testing. This is a burden—but also an opportunity for parents. If you truly are trying to get clean, you can show the judge that you have stopped drinking by passing regular tests. The same is true if you are overcoming a drug addiction or only did drugs once. Continued clean tests show the judge you are not an addict.

Long-Term Consequences of Failing a Drug Test

A single failed drug test does not prevent you from getting custody of your children. Your case is probably ongoing and might take a year or more to conclude. If you stay clean, then you can strengthen your claim to custody. It’s really up to you.

Contact Us Today

Our legal team has helped many parents with drug or alcohol problems seek custody of their children. We can also fight fire with fire. Remember: your ex’s drug and alcohol history matters, too. We can request that a judge order a test for your ex, which might reveal a drug or alcohol problem. Call Tad Nelson & Associates to discuss drug testing in more detail.