Parenting - Drug/Alcohol Testing: What Type of Test Should I Require?

Alcohol Testing in Child Custody Cases

Parent drinkingIf your custody plan is contingent on the agreement that one parent is prohibited from drinking at any time, then you have probably heard of EtG testing.

EtG testing is exclusively for alcohol detection for parents who are not allowed to drink at any time (as opposed to being prohibited just during parenting time). If two tests are done per week (evenly spread out), such as on Mondays and Thursdays, alcohol consumed during any day of the week will generally be detected because EtG tests can detect alcohol consumed up to five days beforehand.

This test will not detect drugs. If illicit or prescription drugs are a concern, then the parent should take a 12 panel UA (urinalysis) at the same time as the EtG.

Unfortunately, EtGs are somewhat expensive. If two EtG tests per week is not affordable, then a random UA schedule should be implemented. A 12 panel UA covers the vast majority of drugs and is the most common type of UA used. One to two random UAs per week is common, or random breathalyzers can also be mandated. Breathalyzers are the cheapest test, but are also the least reliable because alcohol usually dissipates from saliva after twelve hours.

With random UAs, the user may be able to successfully play Russian Roulette a time or two, but statistically, they will eventually return a positive or they will miss a test (which equals a fail).

EtG tests are also not entirely reliable. They are known to present false positives if the person testing has been exposed to many standard daily products, such as cosmetics or hand sanitizers. This risk, however, is true with many tests and can be cleared up with additional testing.

Finally, if the parent is only not allowed to drink during parenting time, then a breathalyzer can be issued by the other parent immediately preceding parenting time and at the conclusion. There are also alcohol test strips (which provide physical evidence that the test was positive for alcohol but will not stand up in court). Parents who don't get along probably won't do very well with this system as it can be awkward and the child is usually too near not to risk him/her overhearing discussions.

How to Prove Alcoholism in Custody Cases

If you are considering going the route of random testing, pick the facility carefully. Ask the facility questions about their random testing schedule. For example, some facilities don't test on certain days and while they don't advertise this, users do pick up the pattern and use accordingly. Smaller facilities are closed on holidays; therefore, the user will know that they are not going to get called in on that day and use accordingly.

Finally, make sure your court order specifies that the following will constitute a "failed" test:

1) a "dilute" test (when the user drinks so much liquid that the test is not valid and therefore cannot detect drugs or alcohol);

2) a missed test and

3) a positive test.

Users are creative. If they know they are going to test positive, they may drink so much fluid that the test will be invalid. Or if they know they will test positive, they will come up with reasons why they could not make it. It is actually seldom that an actual positive result will come up. The order must specify that in the event one of these three events occur, no matter the reason, they have failed the test.

There are ways for the user to demonstrate that they were clean on the day of the "missed" or "dilute" test but it should be his/her responsibility to establish that. For example, a PeTH test could be taken, which is a blood test that will detect the presence of alcohol up to 14 days prior to the testing.

Therefore, a user who truly got stuck in a traffic jam and could not get his/her EtG test done has options. Hair follicle tests can also be used - but the hair follicle sample cannot be collected until at least 7 days of growth occurs from the date of the "missed" or "dilute" test or the drug/alcohol will not have made it to the follicle yet.

There are lots of other ways experienced testers get around testing. They even buy urine from others and tape it to their bodies so that the urine is warm. Avoid this pitfall by requiring the test to be "observed" - and ask the facility what their definition of "observe" is. Don't use the term "monitored" because that simply means that the urine is inspected for proper temperature and color.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of various situations that require careful thought and planning. Drug and alcohol testing is complex, especially in a state like Colorado, which USA Today reports has the 13th highest rate of alcohol-related driving deaths in the country. When the safety of a child is at risk, no amount of precautions can be too much of a hassle to be worthwhile.

If you have any questions about parenting and drug testing or alcohol testing, please contact The Law Office of Alexandra White now!

Attorney Alexandra White

Blog Author: Attorney Alexandra White

Alexandra White is the founder of the Law Office of Alexandra White, PC.

Visit her bio to learn more about her 10+ years of family law experience.

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