It is quite common these days to come across cases where one party is not allowing the other to spend time with their child(ren) because of allegations of drug and/or alcohol misuse. From speaking to colleagues and local professionals and based upon my own experience, I would estimate that in around 50% of cases the alleged substance mis-user will go to their first appointment with their Solicitor stating their innocence. At that first appointment they are informed that once the Court proceedings are underway, there will be something known as a directions appointment – a hearing where the Judge orders what steps need to be taken to move the case towards a conclusion. One thing that will usually be ordered where an allegation of substance misuse is made is testing for substance concerned. It is quite surprising how many admissions of substance misuse are forthcoming once it becomes apparent that testing is likely to take place.
If you are involved in Court proceedings concerning a child and your ex-partner makes allegations against you then there are a few pieces of advice.
1. Honesty is the best policy.
Firstly, if you have taken anything (even if it was only once and it was 6 months ago) be honest with your Solicitor. This can be explained to the other party’s Solicitor and sometimes the need for a drugs test can be avoided all together or it might be delayed for a further 3 or 6 months to check that you have not taken anything since. The worst possible scenario is to deny having taken anything and then undergo a drugs test that proves that you have. This will ultimately mean that your credibility on all issues may be called into question – the Judge will want to know why he or she should believe anything you say if you lied about taking a substance.
2. Consider getting reports from healthcare professionals.
If you have had problems with substance misuse and you have previously sought treatment such as counselling, rehabilitation or any other therapy then your Solicitor can ask for copies of your medical records (note that these will be disclosed to the other party). You could also get an up to date report to show the progress that you have made.
3. Don’t panic
Just because you once took cocaine on a daily basis or you were alcohol dependent or you have smoked a few marijuana joints that does not necessarily mean that you are not going to see your child. There a plenty of measures that the Court can put in place to ensure that the child is safe. The important thing is that you prove to the Court that you are no longer using the substance concerned and that you are capable of putting your child’s needs before your own. Even is the Court will only initially allow you indirect contact (such as letters and cards), once you can prove that they are safe and happy in your care the case can go back to Court for a further order increasing the contact. Remember, it is generally considered to be in a child’s best interests to have contact with both parents but the Court has to be sure that the child is safe before allowing them to spend time with you.
For more information about drug and alcohol testing in Court proceedings, contact a member of the family team at Sultan Lloyd on 01212482850.