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What Happens if You Refuse a Court-ordered Drug Test in a Child Custody Case?

refusing drug test family court

Going through a custody battle?

Court matters involving children can get messy quickly. Whether parents are in the throes of a heated divorce or custody is being challenged for some other reason, legal issues involving kids always feel personal. If a substance abuse problem is a concern in deciding where your child will live, there’s a lot at stake. But what happens if you refuse a court-ordered drug test in a child custody case in South Carolina? When you’re facing family law matters and worrying about the well-being of your children, let an Anderson family law and child custody lawyer help you through the process to ensure the best possible outcome.

What is Considered an Unfit Parent in SC?

An unfit parent is at risk of the court terminating their parental rights if it’s in the child’s best interest to do so. For the court to take such action, there are usually circumstances present that put the child at risk.

These circumstances can include the following:

  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Prolonged parental absence
  • Abandonment of the child
  • Certain violent crime convictions
  • Drug abuse or alcohol addiction

When Can Drug Testing Be Court-Ordered in Child Custody Cases?

In any family law matter involving minors, South Carolina courts are obligated to consider the child’s best interest above anything else. This means that if drug concerns are present—whether it’s an addiction to prescription medication or the abuse of illegal substances—the court may rule in favor of granting sole custody to the parent who is not a drug user. A family court judge can typically order a parent to be drug tested at the request of the guardian ad litem, child protective services, the other parent, or if the judge suspects drug abuse.

Can I Make My Ex Take a Drug Test?

This doesn’t necessarily mean that any co-parent can request that the court order the other parent to take a drug test. South Carolina family courts require the requesting parent to first file a motion for court-ordered drug testing to be performed. Sometimes, the court will require a measure of evidence that drug and alcohol abuse is present before ordering drug and alcohol testing.

Evidence may include any proof that the other parent has a history of drug use, including:

  • Prior drug charges
  • Prior charges involving impaired driving
  • Proof of addiction (i.e., previously underwent drug treatment or rehabilitation program)
  • Witness testimony

Keep in mind that if the court orders one parent to undergo drug testing, it’s almost certain they’ll also require the same of the other parent—even if they are the one to request a drug test from the other party.

Refusing a Drug Test: Family Court

Refusing to comply with a court order is a serious matter. In any court case, refusing to comply with the court’s rulings is considered contempt of court, which often carries penalties like fines and jail time. In addition to a contempt charge, refusing drug testing in family court – like in child custody cases – may convince the judge not to rule in your favor to secure the child’s best interests.

What Happens After a Failed Drug Test During a Child Custody Case?

In most family court cases, a positive drug test results in the parent or parents being relieved of legal and physical custody of their child. Drug use and drug addiction are situations the court believes make an unfit parent since they’ll be unlikely or unable to provide care to their children. While custody will be removed from the parent, this doesn’t necessarily mean the parent loses all parental rights and responsibilities. For example, the parent that loses custody will still be obligated to pay child support. In many cases, the court will create new parenting time conditions. This may mean supervised visitation in some situations, but the parent will still likely have the ability to see their children as long as it’s safe for the child.

Get Help From an Experienced Family Law Attorney in Anderson, SC

Whether you’re facing drug tests and possibly losing custody or the parent who wants to request that drug testing be performed, you need the experience and knowledge that a family law attorney can provide. Steele Family Law can walk you through the legal process of child custody hearings and decisions to ensure the best possible outcome for your family court case.


Author Bio

Greg Steele is CEO and Managing Partner of Steele Family Law, a South Carolina estate planning and family law firm. With years of experience in practicing law, he has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including divorce, child custody and support, estate planning, probate, and other legal cases.

Greg received his Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia and is a member of the South Carolina Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named among Anderson’s Top 20 Under 40 in 2022.

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