Ask the Solicitor: I’m scared my ex is using drugs and alcohol when with our son – is there anything I can do?

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Today we continue our series of legal advice articles called Ask the Solicitor, in partnership with Altrincham law firm Hill and Company. You can read the previous article here.

This week it’s family solicitor Dan Knox.

Q

Dear Dan
I am concerned that when my ex-partner recently came to collect our son, Adam, for the weekend, I could distinctly smell alcohol on his breath. I also think that he has started smoking cannabis recreationally. I have recently received messages from friends and family who are concerned about him and his drug and alcohol use. I did confront my ex about this but he denied taking any drugs or drinking alcohol regularly, saying he only has a couple of pints once a week.

My general feelings are that my ex can do what he wants in his spare time, but I am obviously concerned that he might be under the influence of a substance whilst he is caring for Adam. I would never forgive myself if something were to happen to Adam when he was with his Dad.

Is there anything I can do about this?

A

Unfortunately, consumption of alcohol and drugs whilst caring for a child is a common issue that arises in children disputes.

In the first instance, we would recommend that you speak to your ex-partner directly and set out your concerns. If your ex-partner continues to deny the allegations and does nothing to abate your concerns, you can make clear that you consider any drug or alcohol consumption whilst caring for Adam (and in the preceding days) to be a safeguarding issue and this will impact on the time he is able to spend with Adam.

If you already have a Child Arrangements Order in place, you should consider applying to the court to amend the terms of the order so that you become Adam’s primary carer (if you are not already). A primary carer in family law is the person with whom the child spends the most time with. The Family Court will change who a child’s primary carer is if that is what in the best interests of the child.

Within your application you can set out your safeguarding concerns and request that the court order your ex-partner to take a hair strand alcohol and drug test.

In the event that your ex-partner refuses to take a test, the court cannot force him to take one but inferences can be drawn from his refusal.

Dan Knox, Hill & Company

A hair alcohol test can be used to show if a person has consumed alcohol over a period of time. This is usually used to show excessive alcohol abuse.

A hair drug test can show a person’s drug use for up to a year, depending on the length of their hair (each centimetre showing approximately a months’ worth of drug use). If the person does not have any hair, body hair, fingernail, urine and blood samples can be used.

These tests might be able to give you a better idea of your ex-partner’s drug and alcohol consumption, both currently and historically. In the event that your ex-partner refuses to take a test, the court cannot force him to take one but inferences can be drawn from his refusal.

Should the tests show evidence of repeated drug and alcohol use, the court will consider the safeguarding impact of this and adjust the child arrangements order accordingly on the basis of it being a safeguarding issue.

In the event that you do not have a Child Arrangements Order in place, you can apply to the court requesting that you be Adam’s primary carer. Again, in your application, you can request that a hair strand test be ordered to ascertain the level of drug and alcohol use.

It is likely that if a court orders a hair strand test, you will have to bear the cost of this and these tests can range in price from approximately £100 – £600 depending on the level and type of test required. I do hope this broad brush advice helps. If you would like to discuss your position in more detail, please arrange for a consultation at Hill and Company’s Offices in Altrincham.

Best wishes,

Dan

If you need advice about your separation, or any other legal issue, you can contact Dan or one of our other trusted legal advisors here at Hill and Company by telephone on 0161 928 3201.

Family solicitor Dan Knox, from Hill and Company Solicitors
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