When Are Drug Tests Used in Dover Child Custody Cases?

A common factor affecting child custody is a parent’s drug use. If you and/or your spouse have a history of using drugs and are wondering how it could affect your case, consider the following information in addition to speaking with a Dover family law attorney.

Will a Massachusetts court order drug testing?

Massachusetts courts will not automatically order a drug test for you or your spouse. Whether a judge will order drug testing depends on more than mere allegations or suspicion.

There will need to be evidence supporting the claim of drug use and that it is having a negative effect on that individual’s ability to parent. It is important to note that if you request a drug test for your spouse, you may be subjected to one yourself, especially if you and your spouse live together.


What evidence do I need to support a motion for drug testing?

Appearance or behavioral changes alone will not be considered sufficient grounds to file a motion for drug testing. Evidence to support a bid can include the following:

  • Acknowledgment by a parent of their drug use or addiction.
  • Credible testimony from the sober parent about their observations of drug use, behavior consistent with drug use, and/or photos of drugs or paraphernalia.
  • Testimony from witnesses, including family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or professionals, who have firsthand knowledge of the parent’s drug use.
  • Positive drug tests or medical records reflecting treatment for drug use.
  • Police reports, arrest records, or convictions related to drug use.

Without a proper show of evidence, Dover, MA courts may deny a request for drug testing.

How will courts apply the best interests of the child standard to decision-making in drug use cases?

When making determinations, the court will do what it deems is in the best interests of the child. Massachusetts courts will consider a variety of factors that typically revolve around each parent’s capacity to provide a secure and nurturing home environment for the child, taking into account income, employment stability, and housing.

Additionally, courts will take into consideration the child’s emotional and physical requirements, educational needs, and overall development. Examples of factors contributing to the determination of what is in the child’s best interests include:

  • The child’s bond with each parent.
  • Parents’ history of caretaking.
  • Both parents’ work schedules.
  • The child’s ties to the area where one parent resides (e.g., school, family, extracurricular activities).
  • History of domestic abuse in the home.
  • Parents’ mental health.
  • Any substance abuse issues, including alcohol abuse.

The burden is on the parent filing the motion to prove there is a risk of harm to the child. That said, a court will generally consider a parent who is using hard drugs, including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines to pose a significant risk.

What is a drug test used to detect?

Drug tests are typically used to detect hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and unprescribed pills. They can also be used to detect marijuana, but courts are less likely now to take any action on these positive tests because marijuana is so readily available and its use essentially sanctioned by the government.

There are different types of drug tests available.

The most common type of drug test is a urine test because a sample can be taken in the courthouse. In addition to being convenient, it is also less costly and can detect a wide range of drugs. However, a urine test is not without its drawbacks: it can easily be tampered with, i.e., switched or diluted.

Urine testing is also limited in its scope, only capable of detecting drugs in the system for a few days and a little longer for marijuana. Finally, results for urine drug tests can be misleading, given how certain medical conditions can cause false positives.

Hair follicle and blood tests tend to be more reliable than urine tests. Hair follicle drug tests can detect drug use as far back as 90 days, while blood tests can detect drugs in the system anywhere from a few days to a week, depending on the type of drug being tested.

Samples for each are collected in a lab, not the courthouse, minimizing the likelihood of tampering. However, factors such as hair coloration and hair texture can affect hair follicle results. Even so, hair follicle tests remain the most reliable drug tests available today.

When would it be appropriate to file a motion for a drug test for my spouse?

If you suspect your spouse or ex-spouse is using drugs or have evidence they are and are concerned that it is inhibiting their ability to parent, contact a Dover family law attorney immediately. Your lawyer can file a motion for this individual to undergo drug testing.

It is quite common for drug testing to be requested by the non-drug-using parent on an emergency basis to keep the child safe during parenting time. However, the sooner you file for it, the better.

What happens if my spouse or I fail a drug test in Dover, MA?

A positive drug test does not automatically result in a parent losing custody. If the court believes there is an issue with drug use, parenting time may be suspended or supervised pending the results or based on a positive result.

Should the drug-using parent deny they have a problem with drugs, the court’s perception of their risk to what is in the child’s best interests will be higher. This includes whether the child can access drugs as a result of the parent’s usage.

In the event the using parent admits they have a problem with drugs and initiates treatment as well as provides verification of ongoing treatment for purposes of maintenance, the court will be more inclined to move to unsupervised parenting time faster.

Whenever possible, the court will do its best to keep both parents involved in the child’s life. Where there is long-term drug use that has proved harmful to the child, it can result in very limited and supervised parenting time.

Sadly, in situations where both parents have created an unsafe environment for the child, including one in which the child has access to drugs, parents can face criminal charges. At that point, Child Protective Services would likely intervene, potentially resulting in a custody change based on the findings.

Find a Dover family law attorney

Drug usage by a parent can have serious implications for Massachusetts child custody cases. It can also wreak havoc on both parents’ and children’s emotions. Having a strong but empathetic family law attorney at your side who has experience navigating the twists and turns common to custody disputes can help. Call our office today.

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