In the 30 years that I have worked within the legal profession I have seen the impact alcohol and drugs can have on marriages and relationships and the on-going impact which alcohol and drug abuse can have when is comes to trying to sort out the arrangements for any children of those relationships.
There is help available but the person with the alcohol or drug dependency needs to acknowledge they have a problem and want to have that help before any progress can be made. It is not an easy journey but organisations in Swindon such as SOLAR (Swindon Options for Life Recovery) are working very hard to give support and help to those struggling with dependency. There are similar organisations in other areas and your local GP might be the best person to ask.
When someone does not want to acknowledge that they have a drink or alcohol problem, that is when it is most difficult to put in place arrangements for children. It is important to ensure is that a child is both safe and happy whilst with each parent. If a parent has concerns about the other parent’s drug use or drinking and those concerns are acknowledged by the court then it is highly likely that that the court will request that a drug and alcohol test be carried out. These tests can cost hundreds of pounds depending on what is being tested for and over what period of time. In Bath and Gloucester family courts, when such a test is ordered then the cost will be met by the court. This is a pilot scheme at the moment and may be rolled out across the country.
There are a number of companies which can carry out these tests and you can find on both the government’s website and the child maintenance website a list of companies whose results are recognised by the court and by the Child Maintenance Service.
A sample of hair is taken, usually from both sides of the head but if someone has shaved their head then hair samples can be taken from other parts of the body such as underarms, pubic hair or eyebrows. On average it will take two weeks for hair to emerge from the hair follicle so that it can be tested. Thereafter it will grow at an average rate of 1 cm a month; samples are usually 3 cms long and so cover a three month period. Therefore if you want a sample for the month of July, the hair will need to be collected in the latter half of September (one month plus two weeks) .
At the laboratory the hair sample is washed and the ‘wash’ is kept for analysing as well. Samples of hair are kept for 6 years.
There are a number of things that can influence the hair analysis such as bleach, hair dyes and certain other hair products which the donor will be asked about at the time the sample is taken. Smoking, medication and the concentration and purity of the drugs being taken will also impact of the quality of the sample. The results will show whether, in the case of cocaine, it was the powder or crystal form that was used. The tests will also detect the difference between legal and illegal drug use.
Hair testing for the use of drugs other than alcohol has been used for many years and is generally considered quite precise when it comes to profiling drug use. However, in relation to alcohol use, hair analysis has been shown to be reliable only at testing excessive alcohol consumption and not low alcohol consumption or abstinence.
Therefore if you want to show that a person is consuming alcohol at lower levels, other forms of testing – such as urine, blood or breathalyser tests – will be more helpful than a hair test.
If you are separated from your children’s mother or father and are concerned about how drug or alcohol use is affecting your children, please contact one of the specialist family lawyers in the BLB Family team.
Image by Emily Elizabeth Photography under a Creative Commons Licence