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How Drugs and Alcohol can Impact your Family Law matter

Written by Pearsons Lawyers
20 October 2023

Exposing a child to a parent who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol is risky and unthinkable to most parents. Indeed, there is a significant risk that a child who is exposed to such a parent will be unsupervised, neglected or abused. A common problem that separated parents face is how to protect a child from harm while supporting their relationship with the other parent. In this blog, we discuss the significance of allegations of substance abuse in family law proceedings and the legal processes surrounding them. 

“I think my child is at risk of harm from drug or alcohol abuse”

If you believe your child is at risk of harm because of the other parent’s substance abuse, you may:

  1. Stop your child from seeing the other parent;
  2. Report the other parent with the relevant authorities and/or the Court: if you decide to report the matter, it is essential that you produce evidence to show that the other parent is abusing a substance and is engaging in behaviour which raises concern for an unacceptable risk to the child. The evidence may include witness statements, medical reports, or police records;
  3. Request that the other parent undergo a drug test: for example, a hair follicle test can determine a person’s drug use over a period of about 3 months or more. If you do not want the child to continue to spend time with the other parent, a positive drug finding will support your case; or
  4. If you believe the child should continue to spend time with the other parent, then you may want to consider supervised time: there are several private and public services that offer a third party to be present and support the child while they spend time with the other parent.

How does the Court Respond to Substance Abuse Allegations?

If there have been allegations of drug or alcohol abuse, then the Court will assess the issue. 

The Court will generally want to know:

  • What the drug is;
  • How frequently the drug has been used;
  • Any exposure the child has had to risk of harm; and
  • Whether the parent with substance abuse is aware of their problem, can provide a stable and supporting environment for the child, and whether they are receiving treatment for their substance abuse.

After assessing all relevant issues, the Court may order that the that parent with substance abuse:

  • Undergoes regular/random drug testing such as urine testing, hair follicle test, blood testing, saliva testing or breath testing; 
  • Takes part in an independent assessment, such as a psychological evaluation, to determine the veracity of the allegations. These assessments help provide a clear picture of the extent of the substance abuse and its impact on the child; or
  • Attends rehabilitation programs or counselling as a condition for regaining time with the child. This approach aims to address the root causes of the substance abuse and facilitate family reunification.

The Court will also make a parenting order regarding time spent with the child. When making a parenting order, the Court will assess the best interest of the child, that is to have a meaningful relationship with the parent who is alleged to abuse drugs or alcohol, while avoiding the child being exposed to an unacceptable risk of harm. 

If the Court finds evidence of substance abuse and determines that it is not in the child’s best interests to be in the care of the other parent, it may issue parenting orders that limit or supervise that parent’s access to the child. These orders are intended to protect the child’s well-being.


Allegations of drugs and alcohol abuse in family law proceedings are taken seriously due to their potential impact on children and families. The Family Law Act is designed to prioritise the best interests of the child while also considering the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved. 

To arrange your free initial consultation with a specialist Family Lawyer at Pearsons Lawyers contact us today or call 1300 699 688 and know where you stand.

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