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Do Arizona Courts Use Drug and Alcohol Testing in Deciding Child Custody Matters?

One area of controversy that often arises in child custody cases is an allegation that one or both of the parents abuses drugs or alcohol. In Arizona, the rules of procedure for family court address the court’s authority to look into these matters with court-ordered drug or alcohol testing. See Ariz. R. Fam. L. Pro. 95(c). More specifically, the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure provide that:


In a case involving legal decision-making or parenting time, the court may order substance abuse screening and random testing of a party if there is an allegation or showing that the party has abused alcohol or drugs, including prescription medication. The court must designate the frequency of testing and determine which party is responsible for paying for screening and testing services.


Id. The results of such drug tests can be very important to the outcome of a child custody case. For example, if there is a concern that substance abuse might affect a parent’s ability to safely care for a minor child, the court may consider the issue making decisions concerning parenting time and the best interests of a minor child. See ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-403 (requiring courts to consider “all factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being” in making parenting time orders); ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-403 (requiring courts to consider “[t]he mental and physical health of all individuals involved” when making parenting time orders).


Additionally, Arizona statute provides that “[i]f the court determines that a parent has abused drugs or alcohol . . . within twelve months before the petition or the request for legal decision-making or parenting time is filed, there is a rebuttable presumption that sole or joint legal decision-making by that parent is not in the child’s best interests.” ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-403.04(A). On the other hand, Arizona statute also requires that the court consider “[r]esults of random drug testing for a six month period that indicate that the person is not using drugs . . . .” in determining whether that parent has rebutted presumption against their sole or joint legal decision-making authority for the child. See ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-403.04(B)(2). In other words, with respect to legal decision-making issues, the effects of court-ordered drug testing cuts both ways depending on whether the results are positive or negative and the particular circumstances of each case.


If you are involved in or facing a possible child custody matter in the State of Arizona and have questions about the impact of substance issues, it is advisable to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can provide guidance based on the specifics of your situation and help you understand your rights and obligations. If you are in need of an Arizona attorney to help you with a family law case in the State of Arizona, contact Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC to schedule a consultation.


Disclaimer: This publication is for educational and informational purposes only, and represents Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC’s understanding of the present state of Arizona law. This publication does not constitute legal advice or counsel, and should not be construed as a comment on the merits of any particular case. It should be noted that the laws and requirements of the State of Arizona may change at any time and that this information may not be complete or correct.