May 2019 | Les Stubbs

Your family lawyer may have advised you, or you may have read that the most important issue in parenting proceedings in family law cases is “the best interests of the child”.

It is a critical duty of the family law system to protect children. Sometimes children may need greater means of protection because of a parent’s neglectful or abusive behaviour. Alcohol and drug abuse are becoming a leading cause of marital breakdown, and the long term effects on children, if not managed, can be devastating.

Alcohol is one of the highest contributing factors to domestic violence, abuse, health issues and the breakdown within families. Testing for alcohol under orders made by a court such as the Family Court of Australia provides a scientifically proven method to monitor an individual’s alcohol use over a period of time.

Look at the table below showing the relation between violent incidents and the time of day when they occur, with the consumption of alcohol:

It is alarming that statistics show that after 6 pm, the consumption of alcohol is a factor in more than half, and up to 84% of violence and abuse incidents.

For this reason, in a family law case, for example, one or both parents may be required to undergo alcohol testing where time spent with their children is conditional on limiting alcohol intake.

Alcohol testing can provide evidence of a number of things:

  • Excessive alcohol abuse – defined as 40 grams of pure ethanol a day, equivalent to half a bottle of wine;
  • Occasional drinking – defined as less than 40 grams of pure ethanol a day; and
  • Abstinence –defined as no consumption of ethanol.

There are numerous ways to test for alcohol including urine testing and even hair testing which can indicate longer-term alcohol intake up to six months.

Why would you need to consider doing this? If you, your child or children have been exposed to domestic violence and/or abuse, or if you fear that you are at risk of being exposed to domestic violence and/or abuse, and alcohol (and/or drugs) is a contributing factor, then it may be necessary to bring this to the attention of the court to manage the situation. Proper investigation, treatment, and safeguards can help to manage or resolve alcohol and drug-related problems during and after marital breakdown. Leaving it unaddressed, however, may worsen the situation.

As specialist and experienced family lawyers, we can assist families with matters concerning drug and alcohol abuse including court managed programs and arranging for accredited and approved testing. Call us today on 9231 2466.