How is Drug Testing Used in Virginia Custody Cases?

When the parents of a child cannot agree about custody and visitation arrangements for their child in Virginia, the state court will ultimately have to make its own decision regarding the legal and physical custody of the child. The court uses a “best interests” standard in making this determination.  In particular, parental drug use has an enormous impact on the interests of that child and on the ability of a parent to properly care for the child. When parental drug use is at issue, the court is often faced each parent’s different story about whether drugs are an issue for one or both parents. To address this issue, Virginia law does allow the juvenile & domestic relations district courts to order drug testing of one or both parents.

Requesting Drug Testing in a Virginia Custody Case

Under Virginia Code § 16.1-278.15, the court may order that drug testing be done on any parent, guardian, or legal custodian of a child where the court deems that it is appropriate to do so. Although the law does not specify that the other parent in a custody matter must request that the court order the testing for it to be done, it is your right to request that the court do so. Drug testing in Virginia custody cases are often done through urine testing.

If you believe that the results of such a test will impact your argument for your preferred custody outcome (further explained below), then it is in your interest to make such a request to the court as early as possible in the proceedings. Although asking for such a test can certainly cause tension between you and the other parent, it is important to remember that the court is primarily interested in the welfare of the child, which can be severely impacted by a parent’s drug use, and so you are well within your rights and responsibilities as a parent to make this request.

How a Positive Drug Test Can Impact a Custody Matter

To be clear, a positive drug test of one parent does not automatically mean that the other parent is granted full custody and the parent who tested positive loses his or her rights to parent the child. Instead, a parent’s drug use is one factor that a court will consider in determining what custody and visitation arrangement is in the best interests of the child, although it is a factor that can have an impact on quite a few of the other factors the court will consider, including:

  • The ability of a parent to meet the intellectual, physical, and emotional needs of a child
  • The physical health of a parent
  • The mental health and stability of a parent
  • The ability of a parent to provide for a child
  • The willingness of a parent to raise the child and maintain a close relationship with the child

Virginia courts do want both parents to be involved with raising the child whenever possible, and it is understood that people who deal with drug issues can recover and provide proper parenting to children, and so a judge will assess the drug use in the context of that larger scheme.  If you have any concern about another parent’s drug use or the possibility of a drug test in your custody matter, contact an experienced Virginia family law attorney for guidance.

Work with Experienced, Compassionate Family Law Attorneys

At Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC in Fredericksburg, we will guide you through all of your questions regarding child custody, and help you work towards favorable outcomes for you and your children. To schedule a consultation with one of our Virginia family law attorneys, contact Select Law Partners at 540.642.1766.
We offer legal assistance in custody, visitation, and child support matters in the Cities of Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Manassas Park, and the Counties of Caroline, Culpeper, Essex, Hanover, King George, Prince William, Richmond, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Westmoreland.

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Matt Kurylo

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