Paul D. Cramm

Drug Testing In Child Custody Cases

Child custody cases are stressful, to say the least. But when one parent suspects the other of illegal or recreational drug use, these cases become even more complex. Drug testing is often court-ordered in these cases, to determine if the child is at risk in either spouse’s custody. When the allegations prove true, the judge often imposes custody restrictions, referred to as “legal decision making.” The judge may also restrict parenting time to protect the involved children from exposure to these intoxicants or a parent involved in drug abuse.

These restrictions may take place for recreational use of any of these types of substances:

  • Illegal drugs
  • Prescription drugs used without a prescription or recreationally
  • Alcohol overuse or abuse
  • Any intoxicant or medication altering or impairing the judgment or behavior of one parent

How Drug Testing Ordered by the Court Affects Your Custody Case

In child custody or parenting time cases, the parents of minor children cannot claim “no probable cause” when drug testing is ordered by the judge. This differs from criminal cases, where the alleged offender can assert violation of their constitutional rights against unlawful search or seizure. The court and law give Arizona family court judges greater authority to order parents to drug testing based on the child’s best interests.

Still, parents in these family court cases cannot be forced to comply with a drug test order. The refusal to test when ordered by family to do so simply infers the parent’s likelihood for testing positive for drugs. This means the parent refusing the ordered test is treated as if they tested positive for drugs.

When the parent submits to the ordered drug test and illegal drugs are found in their system, the court usually orders limited parenting time or supervised visits. This continues until the parent proves he or she no longer abuses illegal drugs. Testing positive one time in family court usually results in random drug testing until a history of clean tests shows the court that the parent is sober and not abusing these substances anymore. At that time, the judge may order unrestricted parenting if doing so does not endanger the children.

Family courts do not exist to punish parents for their transgressions. Instead, these courts work to ensure children of Arizona are kept safe when parents make a series of bad choices. When a parent proves he or she is clean of drugs and a series of drug tests backs this up, that parent can resume normal parenting time with the children, according to the permitted schedule.

Types of Drugs Abused Make a Difference in Court Decisions

Family court judges do not treat all drugs the same, when it comes to child custody and parenting time. Using methamphetamine, for example, brings with it violent and unpredictable behavior as compare to a drug like marijuana. So the parent testing positive for methamphetamine will not receive the same court order for a series of drug testing as someone abusing meth. The person using meth may also be required to attend rehab before the court will consider parenting rights, whereas a marijuana user may not.

Changes in state laws governing medical marijuana use make many parents nervous, when they possess a medical marijuana card and use the drug. But this type of drug use does not usually factor into judges’ decisioning making for parenting or child custody, as long as the children are well cared for and safe.

Family Law Cases Require Experienced Legal Representation

The court decisions in your parenting or child custody case form the foundation of your future with your children. You must take these matters very seriously, especially if you have a history of drug use. You need an attorney able to best represent your rights as a parent, to avoid revocation of your parenting rights.

Share this Article

About the Author

This practice has been exclusively devoted to all levels of criminal defense from misdemeanor offenses in municipal court to felony matters in the Federal courts of Kansas and the Western District of Missouri. Paul D. Cramm is qualified to provide defense in Capital and Death Penalty cases.