Drug abuse is a serious problem in Pennsylvania and across the country. When a person suspects their ex of abusing drugs and is worried for their child's safety, they can ask a Pennsylvania family court judge to order a drug test. A judge can order a co-parent to take a drug test when they have reason to believe they're using or abusing controlled substances. Once the court receives the results, it will determine whether it's in the child's best interest to modify the custody arrangements.
Whether you want your ex to take a drug test or a Pennsylvania court has ordered you to take a drug test, you need to speak with an experienced family lawyer about how to best proceed. Here's what you need to know at the outset.
Requesting a Drug Test
If your ex shows signs of using drugs, you can file a motion requesting the court to order a drug test. However, you will have to present the court with evidence of drug use when requesting a drug test–you can't just make vague allegations. Courts take the imposition of ordering someone to submit to a drug test seriously and frown upon frivolous requests. If you don't have hard evidence of your ex using drugs, a knowledgeable lawyer can help you identify other types of persuasive evidence you can present with your request. Keep in mind that the co-parent may also request the court to require you to take a drug test, or the court may independently decide that both of you should submit to a test.
Types of Pennsylvania Drug Tests
Pennsylvania courts may test a person's urine, blood, nail, or hair follicles for signs of drug use. There is a large amount of variation between these types of testing as each one can detect the presence of a controlled substance in the body for a different time duration. For example, a urine test can reveal whether certain drugs have been used within a few days of the test date. However, a hair follicle test can reveal whether someone has used drugs as long as 90 days prior to the test.
The court will decide which test to use based on how quickly they want results and the kind of evidence they're looking for. If they have reason to believe the parent is a habitual drug user, they may order the follicle test, although it has a longer turnaround time than other tests. If they suspect that the parent has developed a recent substance abuse problem, a blood or urine test may suffice.
What Happens if a Parent Fails a Drug Test
In most cases, a failed drug test does not mean the parent will automatically lose custody or visitation rights to their child. The consequences the parent faces will depend on the nature of the results. For example, a parent who tests positive for a hard drug such as heroin is likely to face more severe consequences than a person who tests positive for a small amount of marijuana. The court will examine the circumstances surrounding the drug use, including whether it was an isolated event or signs of a habitual problem and how it has or will impact the child's life. It will also examine a number of other factors to assess the family situation and ultimately make a decision on how to process based on the child's best interest.
Among other things, a court may order:
- the parent to attend drug treatment or parenting classes
- a second drug test to be taken within 60 or 90 days
- a modification to the custody agreement.
Consult With an Experienced Pennsylvania Child Custody Lawyer
If your ex has requested that you drug test or if you believe your ex should be tested, speak to a knowledgeable lawyer to help you determine the best course of action. Give Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Team a call. We stand ready to discuss your case, help you understand your rights, and plot a path forward. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.