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Hair Follicle Drug Test In Family Law

drug test

In family law cases, particularly those involving child custody or visitation rights, accurate and reliable drug testing methods are crucial for making informed decisions. One such method gaining popularity is the hair follicle drug test. This test offers a unique perspective on an individual’s drug history, providing a longer window of detection compared to other methods like urine drug testing or saliva tests.


In cases where an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) is involved, they have the authority to include random drug testing as part of the orders they pursue on behalf of the child.


If a party declines to participate in drug testing, the Court is likely to interpret this refusal as an indication that the results would have shown positive. This could have significant adverse effects on the parent’s position in the parenting proceedings.

How Accurate Are Hair Follicle Drug Tests?

Hair follicle drug tests are becoming increasingly prevalent in legal proceedings, including family law cases. This method analyses a small sample of hair to detect the presence of specific drugs and their metabolites. The test relies on the fact that when drugs are ingested, they are metabolised by the body and eventually deposited into hair follicles through the bloodstream.


One of the primary reasons hair follicle drug tests are favoured in family law cases is their high level of accuracy. Unlike other methods, which can be influenced by factors like dilution or tampering, hair tests are extremely difficult to cheat. This makes them a reliable tool for establishing a clear picture of an individual’s drug history.


Hair follicle drug tests can detect a wide range of illicit drug substances, including marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, and more. Additionally, they are capable of identifying both recent and chronic drug use. This comprehensive scope allows for a more complete assessment of an individual’s substance use patterns.


According to the Family Law Act 1975, the court must give primary consideration to the best interest of the child when resolving parental conflicts.

In cases where concerns arise regarding drug use and excessive alcohol consumption, the Court will assess the potential effects or risks on the children when making decisions about the Orders. The outcomes of such testing could influence the amount of time a child spends with a parent, and additional routine drug tests might be mandated to verify that any concerning behaviours are being managed appropriately.

One of the most significant advantages of hair follicle drug tests is their extended detection window. While urine tests can only detect drug use within the past few days, and saliva tests within a few hours, hair drug tests can provide a historical record spanning several months.


On average, a standard hair follicle drug test can detect drug use up to 90 days prior to the sample being taken. This extended timeframe is a crucial factor in family law cases, as it allows for a more thorough assessment of an individual’s drug history, providing a more comprehensive perspective for decision-making.

Factors Affecting Detection Period

While the standard detection window for hair follicle drug tests is approximately 90 days, there are certain factors that can influence this timeframe. These factors include:


Hair Growth Rate


The rate at which an individual’s hair grows can affect the detection period. Generally, hair grows at a rate of about half an inch per month. Therefore, a longer hair sample, at least 1.5 inches of hair may provide a more extended detection window.


Drug Usage Frequency


The frequency of drug use can impact how much of the drug is deposited into the hair follicle. Heavy, frequent use may result in a higher concentration of drug metabolites, making them more easily detectable.


Hair Colour and Type


Dark, coarse hair is more likely to retain drug metabolites than light, fine hair. This can lead to variations in detection times based on an individual’s hair characteristics.


Environmental Contamination


External factors, such as exposure to environmental pollutants or second-hand smoke, can potentially influence the results of a hair follicle drug test.

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How Does a Positive Drug Test Result Effect the Case?

No matter the method of drug testing employed, a positive result does not automatically imply that you are unfit to be granted child custody. However, drug usage can impede one’s ability to parent effectively, and thus, it will be factored into decisions regarding parenting responsibilities. When it comes to recreational drug use, the court acknowledges that it generally carries fewer risks than drug dependency. Nonetheless, even recreational drug use may present potential dangers and will be taken into account.


Should a positive drug test result arise, the court might consider limiting the parent’s time with the child or potentially mandating supervised interactions between them. The implementation of such orders will depend on the unique circumstances of each case and may be enacted on a temporary basis until a negative sample is provided.


In family law cases, accurate drug testing is crucial for ensuring the well-being of children and making informed decisions about custody and visitation rights. Hair follicle drug tests offer a highly accurate and comprehensive assessment of an individual’s drug history, with a detection period of up to 90 days. This extended window of detection, combined with the test’s high accuracy, makes it an invaluable tool in family law proceedings.


As with any testing method, it is essential to consider the specific circumstances of each case and consult with legal and medical professionals to ensure the proper use and interpretation of hair follicle drug test results. By leveraging this powerful tool, family courts can make more informed decisions that prioritize the safety and welfare of all parties involved.


If you have been ordered by the family court to undergo a hair follicle drug test for family court proceedings, contact our child custody lawyer for legal advice. We will provide you with free legal advice for up to 15 minutes for review your case.

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