Drug Testing under Australian Family Law

5 Mar 2024 | Drugs, Law Enforcement

Drug testing in the Family Court of Australia is a critical component of resolving parenting disputes, where the paramount consideration remains the best interests of the child. This essential aspect of family law, particularly in cases involving child custody or visitation rights, relies heavily on accurate and reliable drug testing methods to inform decisions effectively.

Types of Drug Testing in the Family Court of Australia

Hair Testing
Hair testing stands out as a highly accurate method employed by the Family Court of Australia. It involves the collection of a sample of hair from an individual’s head. This type of test can provide insight into a person’s drug patterns over a period of up to six months, offering a comprehensive overview of their substance use history.

An advantage of hair follicle drug tests lies in their capability to identify a wide range of illicit substances, spanning from marijuana and cocaine to amphetamines, opioids, and more. This comprehensive coverage enables a thorough assessment of both recent and chronic drug usage patterns.

It’s worth noting that hair samples for testing need not be solely from the head; they can also originate from the chest or face. This flexibility accommodates individuals without hair on their heads, ensuring inclusivity in the testing process. Typically, a hair sample of at least 3cm in length is required for testing. To minimize the visibility of hair removal, samples can be collected from various spots or less conspicuous areas.

The collection process involves securing the hair sample in foil and then placing it in a secure envelope for mailing to the laboratory. This meticulous procedure ensures the integrity of the sample and the accuracy of the test results.

Alcohol Testing
In cases where alcohol abuse is a concern, the Family Court may order blood tests to assess liver function and detect any liver damage indicative of prolonged alcohol abuse. Additionally, EtG testing through urine samples can identify alcohol use within the past five days.

Parenting orders may include provisions for alcohol testing at specific times, either upon request from one party or by an independent children’s lawyer (ICL) if there are suspicions of alcohol abuse.

Urine Testing
Urine analysis, while less costly than hair follicle testing, is commonly used for detecting illicit substance use. However, its effectiveness varies as different drugs remain in the system for different durations, making it less ideal for some situations.

How Can A Negative Or Positive Result Of A Court-Ordered Drug And Alcohol Test Affect My Custody Case?

In custody cases, court-ordered drug and alcohol tests play a crucial role in determining the welfare of the child and the suitability of each parent for custody or visitation rights. The outcome of these tests can significantly influence the court’s decisions and may have various implications:

Positive Test Result:
A positive result indicating substance abuse may lead to supervised parent-child interactions or restricted visitation rights. The court may impose safeguards to ensure the child’s safety and well-being in the presence of a parent with substance abuse issues.

Negative Test Result:
Conversely, a negative result may contribute to the removal of supervision requirements, allowing for more unsupervised contact between the parent and child. It signals to the court that there are no apparent substance abuse concerns, thereby facilitating smoother custody arrangements.

Ultimately, the objective of court-ordered drug and alcohol tests is to prioritize the best interests of the child.

Commonly Tested Drugs
Illicit substances commonly tested for include:

–  Amphetamines
– Benzodiazepines
– Cannabis
– Cocaine
– Opiates
– Methamphetamine

Beyond Family Court Matters
Hair drug tests find utility beyond Family Court matters and are employed in various contexts, including social services, spiking incidents, and evidence of abstinence.

Contact us to learn more.