When you are in a child custody dispute, the court is primarily concerned with the best interests of the child. If there is any reason to suspect that the child’s well-being or physical safety would be negatively impacted by spending parenting time with one of the parents, the court will take that into serious consideration when dictating the ultimate custody arrangement. If you know or suspect that your spouse abuses drugs or alcohol and you are concerned that their habits pose a danger to your child, you can and should raise those concerns with the court. Continue reading to learn about when drug tests may factor into a child custody matter, and contact a seasoned Englewood child custody attorney for help with a New Jersey family law matter.
How to Get a Drug Test Ordered in a New Jersey Custody Matter
If you suspect that your spouse or co-parent is abusing drugs or alcohol, and you are concerned that those habits are impacting your child’s safety, you can ask your attorney to file a motion with the court requesting a drug test. The court can order either or both parties to submit to a drug test analyzing urine, blood, or hair, depending on the situation and the court’s preferences.
Once the motion is filed, the court will likely hold a hearing. At the hearing, the court will entertain arguments from both sides about whether a drug test is necessary and appropriate. The court is more likely to order a drug test if, for example, one or both parents has a criminal arrest record relating to substance abuse. In some cases, allegations of drug abuse are enough to convince the court; in others, the court may ask for evidence supporting the allegations, such as text messages, social media posts, or pictures indicating drug or alcohol abuse. If both parents accuse each other of drug or alcohol abuse, the court may order both parties to submit to drug testing.
What Happens if a Parent Fails the Drug Test?
If a parent fails a court-ordered drug test, the court has a few options, and their course of action may vary depending on the circumstances of the matter and the substance in question. A parent who tests positive for heroin, for example, will be treated differently from a parent who tests positive for a small amount of alcohol. The court’s course of action may also differ depending on the type of drug test utilized (a urinalysis can show alcohol or drug use within recent days, for example, while a hair follicle test may indicate drug usage in the past several months).
The court might not decide straight away to limit that parent’s rights simply because of a failed test. Courts still prefer to split custody between both parents. The court may, for example, order that parent to take drug or alcohol treatment classes or counseling, as well as general parenting classes. If they complete the program successfully, the court may order a follow-up drug test two or three months later. If the parent passes the test at that point, it may prove to the court that the parent is working to create a better environment for their child, which the court will view positively.
Generally, a parent’s drug or alcohol abuse will factor into the court’s decision regarding custody. If they have reason to suspect that one parent is creating an unsafe environment for the children because of their drug or alcohol habits, the court is likely to limit their custody rights.
What if the Parent Passes the Drug Test?
It’s important to request a drug test only when you have strong reason to believe that your ex/co-parent is abusing substances. If the court orders one or more drug tests and your ex passes, the court will likely not entertain similar concerns from you in the future. You might even lose credibility with the court, especially if they decide that your allegations of drug use are unfounded. Do not frivolously accuse your ex of a drug habit simply to score points; you will do more damage to your own case and your parental rights.
Trusted Advice and Representation for New Jersey Child Custody Matters
If you’re considering divorce in New Jersey or dealing with child support, child custody, property division, or other family law issues, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.