When children are involved in a divorce in Pennsylvania, one of the most important factors to be weighed in any judgment is the best interest of the child. If your ex has full or partial custody or visitation rights of any kind and you have serious concerns about your children’s welfare due to substance abuse, it is possible to require a drug test.
It’s extremely important to have a family law attorney involved in this process. You need to be able to produce evidence or very strong reasons for your belief, not just “a feeling.” Rules of evidence must be closely adhered to in order to maximize the likelihood of your success and avoid poorly collected evidence being thrown out as inadmissible in court – or worse, illegally obtained.
The first step may be to collect some initial evidence, under the guidance of your lawyer, to demonstrate you have a solid case. The next is to have your attorney file a motion asking the court to order the drug test. There are a variety of tests from which to choose based on your particular case and the judge’s preference: urine, blood, or hair analysis will give the court the information it needs.
Before the judge can rule, there will be a hearing, at which time your attorney will present your arguments and supporting evidence. Your ex-spouse will also likely be present or have a lawyer present to argue in his or her defense.
If the judge orders drug testing, the results will determine what happens next. If the parent tested fails the test, the particular substance and the level of use would be factored in deciding what custody modifications need to be made. Someone who tests positive for occasional marijuana use will likely not be judged as harshly as someone with recent, frequent heroin abuse. The judge may also order a second drug test after 60 or 90 days to determine if the parent is able to stop abusing the substance.
Child custody or visitation may be altered based on the information from the drug test, but the parent’s access to the child may not be completely blocked unless results demonstrate a very serious and consistent use of dangerous substances. The child’s physical and emotional safety are always weighed alongside the importance of having a positive relationship with both parents. This is a very difficult balance to keep, and mistakes can be made, but the intentions are good. Children grow best when they have a healthy relationship with both parents.
If you suspect substance abuse by your ex and want a custody modification in order to protect your children, please contact us here at Karen A. Ulmer, P.C. It is critical to bring the strongest case forward the first time because if you fail the first time, a second motion is less likely to be accepted unless the situation has changed or stronger evidence has come forth. Please contact us to see how we can help you present the strongest case possible.