How Does a Positive Drug Test Impact Child Custody?

How Does a Positive Drug Test Impact Child Custody?

When it comes to the care and protection of children, no hurdle is too great. That is why there are strict rules when it comes to the custody of children. Therefore, in the case of a positive drug test many people have questions about how it could impact their ability to retain custody of their children. First, although the term “custody” continues to be frequently used, the State of Florida did away with that term several years ago. Currently, parties that share a child or children in common and no longer plan to stay together must complete a Parenting Plan. That document will specify parental responsibility of the child and a time-sharing schedule that the parties agree to with respect to the child or children. There are a few other common situations that should be discussed regarding this matter.

1. Maternal Drug Testing at Birth

It is not unusual for a mother to have a urine drug screen while pregnant and prior to delivery. It is also not unusual to test the baby's urine or stool for breakdown products of certain medications. Due to advances in science, most people know that if a pregnant woman abuses drugs and/or alcohol, the unborn baby is adversely affected. If any of these are positive, it could trigger the Department of Social Services to conduct an investigation to figure out if the environment is suitable for the baby to live in. If they do not think the environment is safe for the child, the parents could lose custody of their child. That might mean the child will go to a foster home or will be in the care of a relative if it is determined that the biological parents are unfit to take care of the child.

2. If a Custody Disagreement is Ongoing

Some people could already be involved in a child custody dispute, such as in the setting of a divorce. If one of the two parents has a positive drug test, either current or in the past, they should keep in mind that this is a factor that the judge will consider in determining a time-sharing schedule. It could make it more difficult for one of the two parents to have time-sharing with the child or parental responsibility, in the setting of a positive drug test. Shared Parental Responsibility assumes that both parents are fit and should jointly make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of the child. If one party struggles with drug abuse, there is an argument that the other parent should have sole parental responsibility over the child. That means that the parent that does not have a substance abuse problem can make all decisions affecting the minor child or children without having to consult or reach an agreement with the other parent.

3. Sticking to the Judge's Orders

Another common issue that drug testing can present is that parents could be required to undergo regular drug testing as a part of their child custody agreement. It is important for them to take these tests on time and that they be clean. A missed drug test could be just as bad as a positive one. Therefore, parents should do everything in their power to stick to the schedule. There are many programs now available to the public that permits parents to be tested for substance abuse in a quick and efficient way.

Ultimately, everyone's individual case is different and everyone deserves to know all of their rights as well as the rights of their child before accepting any decision. For this reason, it can be helpful to speak with an experienced legal provider to learn more about how child custody and drug testing are intertwined. However, it is important to keep in mind that the most important aspect of any case involving children is that the children are safe and that their best interests are top of mind.

Article updated September 29, 2020.

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