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5 Things Family Lawyers Should Know About Drug Testing


5 Things Family Lawyers Should Know About Drug Testing

There is so much Tennessee family lawyers should know about drug testing a client, the other party, or the client’s children. Parents and spouses need to know, too, that the judge can order drug testing for a number of reasons in divorce, legal separation, annulment, child custody determination, or grandparent visitation. Because substance abuse is always possible, so is the need for drug testing.

Some parents or spouses may have a criminal record for DUI or drug possession. Even more people may be drug or alcohol abusers, but have no arrest record. Yet they still do drugs or routinely drink to excess. Some may have a history of mental health problems which can be exacerbated by illicit drug use, prescription drug use for non-medical reasons, and over-consumption of alcohol.

Functional alcoholics and functional drug abusers live and work among us, at least until the bottom drops out. (Seldom are they as “functional” as they believe themselves to be.) Attorneys and clients alike know anecdotally and from personal experience that drug and alcohol abuse can destroy marriages and ruin relationships. Statistics bear this out.

1. Family Lawyers Should Know Drug Test Statistics

Here are some meaningful drug abuse statistics for family lawyers and their clients:

  • Nearly 68% of all adult illegal drug users are employed, as are most adult binge drinkers and heavy alcohol users. See Drug Testing and Workplace Issues, Nat’l Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

  • Selected Facts & Stats from Mid-South Drug Testing tell us that:

  • 1 out of every 6 workers has a drug problem.

  • Absenteeism among workers who abuse drugs is 16 times higher than among abstaining workers.

  • Workers who abuse drugs are 1/3 less productive than those who abstain.

  • Among children, see NIDA’s DrugFacts: High School and Youth Trends (survey 2014):

  • 7% of 8th graders and 35.1% of 12th graders used marijuana/hashish in the past year.

  • 8% of 12th graders used Vicodin for non-medical purposes in 2014 (down from 9.7% in 2009).

  • 8% of 12th graders reported using synthetic cannabinoids (K2 or Spice) (down from 7.9% in 2013).

What does that mean for drug testing in family law cases? If one of every six workers has a drug problem and over 35% of high school seniors use marijuana or hashish, then every family lawyer must be prepared to handle drug-related issues and drug testing during client representation.

2. Family Lawyers Should Know Why Drug Tests Are Used in Court

Drug addiction necessitates drug testing in almost every affected family law case. Family lawyers should be vigilant to the possibility of drug abuse by the client or by someone residing in the client’s home.

Grounds for Tennessee Divorce

In Tennessee divorce law, abuse of narcotic drugs is grounds for divorce. Allegations in the Complaint of a spouse’s substance abuse as grounds for divorce may necessitate drug testing to prove or disprove those allegations. For example, a positive test result for cocaine, a narcotic, may be used as evidence establishing marital fault.

Other grounds for divorce may also be rooted in habitual drug abuse, including abandonment, indignities, inappropriate marital conduct, even adultery.

Grandparent Visitation

Grandparents may have drug problems, too. When the grandparent with a drug abuse problem seeks visitation, the court may order supervised visitation, drug testing, or both.

Tennessee Child Custody Proceedings

A parent’s drug abuse is a child custody factor for the court to consider in determining legal decision making authority, parenting time, and primary residential parent (PRP) status. But there are other issues to consider, too.

The court may consider either parent’s drug addiction or habitual abuse as creating an unsafe environment for the child.

What about the pregnant woman addicted to drugs? Should she be drug-tested during her pregnancy?