WHAT YOU SHOULD AND NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DRUG AND ALCOHOL TESTING IN THE PROBATE COURT
Allegations of drug and alcohol use and abuse are frequently a major issue in divorce, separate support, and paternity actions, particularly when children are involved. Depending on the information/allegations that are made to the court, the court may order that one or both of the parties be ordered to complete either drug or alcohol testing. Allegations about an individual's driving record, including but not limited to charges of operating under the influence, involuntary commitments in rehabilitation placements and/or half-way houses, or involuntary commitments at in-patient treatment at psychiatric and/or medical facilities may provide a basis for the court to investigate the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs by the parties. Additionally, if either party and/or the children are involved with the Department of Children and Families, and there are reports and/or allegations relative to use of drugs and/or excessive use of alcohol, the Department may become involved and request that the parties participate in drug or alcohol testing.
If the court feels that there is enough information to warrant an immediate drug or alcohol test, the judge may order the parties to immediately submit to a urine screen at the Probate Court. These urine screens may detect recent alcohol and/or drug use. Additionally, if the court feels that a party is intoxicated at the time of a hearing, the judge may order a breathalyzer as well. If the testing is ordered, a Probation Officer will administer the random urine screens, and provide the results to the court. Although the urine screens may detect recent use of alcohol or drugs, the court may also order a hair follicle test.
A hair follicle test is routinely ordered when there is a concern about long-standing and consistent drug use. In the Plymouth County area, the judges will order parties to submit to a hair follicle test at Secon in either Brockton or Quincy. The hair follicle test consists of a sample of hair from either the head, under the armpit, or other parts of the body of sufficient length to complete the testing. The hair follicle test may determine drug use up to approximately 90 days prior to the testing. Many judges order the hair follicle test and random urine screens in order to determine whether or not there is/has been abuse of illegal substances and/or alcohol.
Random urine screens, for either drug or alcohol use, may be conducted at the Probate Court or at a private facility such as Secon. There are fees for each random test, as well as for the hair follicle test. Random drug screens are coordinated through the Probation Officer. Each party is assigned a color, and must call in each and every day, for so long as the order for random screens is in effect, and if his/her color is identified, must report to the designated facility within the time frame directed by the Probation Officer.
In the event that one party alleges the other has engaged in illicit drug use, the other litigant should be aware that the court will likely order both parties to submit to such testing. The defense of "recreational drug use only," will not be acceptable to the court, and any evidence of drug and alcohol use and/or abuse could have a dramatic impact on custody and/or custody, visitation, and/or parenting time.
The court may, after hearing allegations of drug and alcohol abuse, and/or after receiving urine and/or hair follicle testing results, use the information to set a parent schedule, or may immediately alter current visitation orders, including suspension of visitation, and/or change of custody. If the results are positive for one or both of the parties, the court may order supervised visitation by a family member, paid supervisor, and/or order that visitation occur at an appropriate or acceptable visitation center. Supervised visitation, if ordered, will likely remain in full force and effect until a party has consistent negative urine screens, and/or a negative hair follicle test, or such testing results that are acceptable to the court. Any litigant involved in custody/visitation disputes must be aware that the court considers drug and alcohol addictions very seriously.