The issue of court ordered drug testing in a California custody case is a very serious matter that I am often asked about in the course of my practice.
Unfortunately, it is a subject that I have to address during the course of my practice at the Sacramento Family Court House.
A Judge can order parents who are contesting the custody and visitation of a minor child to undergo random drug testing pursuant to California Family Code §3041.5.
This code section lays out specific conditions where a parent can ask the Court to order the other parent to submit to a random drug test.
The requesting parent must first prove to the Judge that there is a reasonable basis for the Judge to believe that the other parent has a substance abuse problem. The most common grounds for this is usually the fact that the other parent has a conviction for the use or possession of a illegal drug in the past few years.
The Court can than order that that one, or both parties be subject to random drug testing for illegal drugs and alcohol.
The Code provision requires that the method of testing be
the "least intrusive" method available and that it be in compliance
with Federal Government employment testing standards and procedures.
The most common method of testing in the Sacramento Court House is what is called the Five Panel Urine Test.
The tested parent must go to the testing center on the same day they are called for a test. They are required to produce an unadulterated urine sample that is tested for: Marijuana, Opiates, Alcohol, Methamphetamines and Cocaine.
The specific language of the Family Code Section states that the results of the test are not, by themselves grounds for a Judge to change custody. However, in practice, the results of a positive drug test will usually result in the court making an order that results is a significant change in the prior custody order. The Courts are not sympathetic to parents with substance abuse problems having large amounts of parenting time.
A parent who fails a drug test can count on being required to produce a series of clean drug tests. In addition, they may be required to show proof of completion of a drug or alcohol treatment program.