Can the Court Order Drug Testing or Evaluations in a Child Custody Case?

A mother and her two small children sit on a bench on a wooded path

Child custody disputes involve some of the most invasive tactics and procedures of the judicial system. Due to the involvement of the vulnerable party of minor children, the court finds methods to circumvent the general privacy rights afforded by the constitution for the compelling interest of protecting children. Therefore, when entering into a child custody dispute it is important to have an experienced Orlando Child Custody Attorney to protect your rights and your child’s.

In Florida there is a presumption that it is in the best interest of the child to maintain continuing contact and relationships with both parents unless there is evidence that such relationship would be detrimental to the child. In cases where a parent’s physical or mental issues are substantially affecting the minor child, the court will seek evidence to ensure impairment exists before taking away their parental rights. The most commonly debated impairments of a parent’s ability that arise in a court proceeding are substance abuse or mental instability.

Florida Statute requires the court to assess the best interest of the child in any child custody proceeding. One of the specific factors the court considers is, “the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.” Therefore, if a parent calls into question another parent’s substance abuse in relation to their parenting ability, the court will seek evidence to prove the abuse and impairment and then may order proper safeguards to protect the child. Evidence of substance abuse can come in the form of testimony of either parent, or third-party witnesses who have witnessed such substance abuse, and police reports or convictions regarding illicit conduct involving the alleged substance abuse. In contrast, if the accused parent denies these allegations, they may voluntarily submit to a drug test to prove their sober living, or completion of a rehabilitation program. However, if the court finds evidence of the substance abuse, they will take this into consideration when determining a parenting plan and implement safeguards to protect the child. These safeguards may involve an agreement to avoid consumption of any substance, random drug testing, supervised visitation, or removing visitation if the court determines the substance abuse is so pervasive that no other means will be able to protect the child.

Another factor considered by the court when determining the best interest of the child is “the mental and physical health of the parents.” Therefore, it is not uncommon for a parent’s present or past mental health battles to come into question before a court. If evidence of a parent’s mental stability is presented to the court, the court may seek medical evaluations for the parent to determine the extent of the mental illness, and the impact it may have on the minor child. The court may also request access to the health records of the parent to determine the length and extent of the mental health disorder. The doctors or psychologists may be called into court to testify as to the parent’s impairment or lack thereof, and provide recommendations as to a viable parenting plan for the parents and child involved.

The issue in every child custody case is to determine what is in the best interest of the child. Therefore, the court may order a parent suspected of substance abuse or mental health issues to submit to testing or evaluations. Although, these tests and evaluations are a clear invasion of privacy, the court evaluates this invasion in comparison to the protection of the vulnerable population of children. If you are entering a child custody dispute where substance abuse or mental health of either parent may be called into question, employ the assistance of an Orlando Child Custody Attorney to ensure your and your children are protected.

Speaking to an attorney at our Orlando office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 407-512-0887 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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