Drug & Alcohol Testing In Arizona Custody Arrangements

When two parents split up, it can usually be difficult for their children. Things can be even more difficult if one or both parents has a problem with drugs or alcohol. If you’re worried about how your child’s other parent’s drug or alcohol problem might damage their development, you may want to include provisions in your custody orders to address this. However, this isn’t a topic that is easily approachable for most. Our Phoenix family law firm handles a variety of issues related to divorce, child custody, child support, and more. To get started with your free consultation, click here or call 480-680-9126.

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Arizona Custody Basics

Arizona has two types of child custody: parenting time and legal decision-making. Parenting time is sometimes called physical custody because it refers to the time the child physically spends with each parent. Legal decision-making is a parent’s legal right to make decisions for their child’s upbringing like education, medical treatments, and more. Drug and alcohol abuse can be a reason to restrict a parent’s physical and/or legal custody. This is because all custody decisions, including both physical and legal custody, must be made with the child’s best interests in mind. A substance abuse problem can interfere with a parent’s ability to act in their child’s best interests. 

Many parents at the start of a custody case believe that there is a statutory preference for children to be placed with their mothers rather than their fathers. However, Arizona holds a general presumption that it is in a child’s best interest to have equal, or close to equal, relationships with both parents. If possible, the judge will have the parents split custody 50/50. A parent can still have legal custody while the child is in the other parent’s physical custody. For example, if a medical emergency occurs while the child is with the father and the parents share joint legal decision-making, the mother must also be consulted about medical decisions for the child’s treatment. 

The factors that Arizona family law judges should consider when determining a child’s best interests are listed in A.R.S. § 25-403. This statute lists 11 factors, but the court will consider any factor deemed relevant. Drug and alcohol abuse can affect several of the factors listed in § 25-403. For example, § 25-403.3 lists the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community. If a parent is wrapped up in a drug or alcohol addiction, it will be generally more difficult to adjust, much less function in general. Drug and alcohol addiction can also affect § 25-403.5, which is the mental and physical health of all individuals involved. A serious drug or alcohol addiction is a disease that can affect a parent’s ability to ultimately care for their child, which means it is relevant to a child’s best interests. 

When Drug & Alcohol Testing Orders Are Appropriate

Drug and alcohol testing isn’t a standard part of most custody orders in Arizona. One parent generally must prove that the other parent isn’t fit due to drug and alcohol abuse, or there may be government intervention that alerts the court to this fact- e.g., CPS involvement. Some examples of evidence that drug and alcohol testing may be in order include:

  • Court-ordered drug and alcohol education and treatment
  • DUI convictions, public intoxication, etc. 
  • Drug possession and related charges 
  • Accessible medical records indicating drug or alcohol abuse
  • CPS reports indicating drug or alcohol abuse
  • Witness testimony

Can I Make My Ex Take An EtG Test?

An EtG test can detect if someone has ingested alcohol for up to 80 days prior. A positive indicator on an EtG test isn’t a clear-cut sign of abuse. Many people, if not most, have had at least one drink in the past 80 days and don’t suffer from a substance abuse problem. For that reason, the court is unlikely to force one parent to submit to testing just because the other parent requested it. A documented history of alcohol abuse may be a reason to consider it. 


If one or both parents must take alcohol testing as part of their custody orders, they can use Soberlink as a choice in alcohol monitoring providers. A parent can be required to test through Soberlink in a variety of schedules. Some parents may only need to test when they have parenting time with the child, while others may be required to test every single day. It will all depend on the parenting plan, and other factors specific to their case. The court and the other parent will be alerted if a parent fails their Soberlink test. 

Just like everything in the family law system, sobriety testing doesn’t come free. Alcohol testing will cost more for a parent who requires daily testing than a parent who only requires testing during scheduled parenting time. Parenting time-only plans cost anywhere from $129 to $229 per month. Daily testing starts at $169 per month but can cost as much as $259 per month. Daily testing can require 2-3 tests per day. The first test should be taken upon waking and the last test of the day should be taken before going to sleep. 

Supervised Visitation

Sometimes, a parent’s struggle with drugs and alcohol makes it simply impossible for that parent to be alone with the child. That doesn’t mean that the parent should necessarily be barred from having a relationship with the child altogether. Here, supervised visitation may be preferable over parenting time with drug and alcohol monitoring. Supervised visitations can be monitored by a DCS agent, parental aide, or other approved party. A child can also have therapeutic visitations with a parent in which the visitation is supervised by a family counselor. Supervised visitation comes with considerable costs just like drug and alcohol monitoring. For more information about the decision between drug and alcohol monitoring and supervised visitation, call our firm for your free consultation at 480-680-9126

Do I Need An Attorney If I Am Pursuing Drug & Alcohol Testing For My Custody Case?

It’s unlikely that your ex is going to willingly agree to drug or alcohol testing as part of your custody orders. Testing is expensive and can be embarrassing and inconvenient for the parent who is required to submit to testing. If the parents can’t agree to test for their custody plan, they may want to try to resolve the matter through mediation. This is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can be used for a variety of child custody and family law issues. If negotiation and mediation can’t help parents reach an agreement regarding drug and alcohol testing, it’s likely that your case would benefit from retaining an Arizona family law attorney. Finding an attorney who can handle your case with the care and attention it deserves doesn’t have to be difficult. We also have a family law firm in Tucson with decades of experience helping our clients achieve favorable outcomes. 

Let our skilled lawyers at AZ Family Law Lawyers guide you through whatever issue your family is facing. The first step toward reliable family law representation is by consulting with one or more family law firms that you have an interest in retaining. Contact us to schedule your free initial consultation with us or call us at 480-680-9126

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