When looking for the best family lawyers to represent you, we suggest you consider choosing one who keeps up to date with current issues in the familial jurisdiction, who is a tenacious advocate for you, and who has the resources to apply to your case.

At O’Sullivan Legal, our family lawyers are always looking for ways to improve our legal practices to guarantee the finest services for each of our clients. Our team includes some of the top family lawyers in Sydney who regularly attend a range of seminars and training sessions to upskill their legal knowledge.

In March 2022, my team of family lawyers and I had the pleasure of attending a seminar hosted by the Greater West Family Law Practitioners’ Association about ‘Drug Testing for Forensic Purposes.’

There is a multitude of testing which can be undertaken where facts arise, creating concerns for family lawyers such as:

  • Alcohol consumed prior to visiting their children
  • Previous drinking history
  • Binge drinking habits
  • Liver damage caused by a long history of drinking
  • Interconnection with other hard drugs

One of the testing measures is an oral fluid test, but there are inherent drawbacks to its use such as:

  • Marijuana is usually out of an individual’s fluid system within 24 hours; however, it is to be noted that police roadside drug testing can pick up cannabis for a further 24 hours within the system
  • Some people cannot produce saliva
  • About 10% of the population have bladder shyness

As noted by our team of family lawyers, hair testing seems to offer the most possibilities. However, it doesn’t test for everything as some drugs are very hard to test for e.g., date rape drugs. When consumed, drugs and alcohol go into the bloodstream and the live hair follicle (it takes approximately 7-10 days for the hair follicle to poke through the skin). The negatives with hair tests include:

  • Time delay, that is 7-10 days of the sample below the scalp.
  • Using alcohol or drugs on rare occasions can sometimes not be picked up in the hair sample. However, regular use will be picked up.
  • Sometimes the body produces alcohol naturally; therefore, a small amount of alcohol can be detected even if you have not consumed alcohol, particularly for individuals with diabetes (that’s why a result between 0-4.9 is considered a negative reading).

When interpreting the results from our family lawyer, the readings indicate the following:

  • 0 – 4.9: Negative
  • 5 – 29.9: Mild – moderate
  • 30+: Heavy (i.e., drinking at least 4 – 6 drinks per day)

If a person produces a heavy drinking result, our family lawyers know it is the most recommended practice also to request a liver function test. However, before undertaking the test, it is crucial to have faith in the people doing the collection and testing. That is, a good laboratory and good collectors (e.g., ensure they have national accreditations)

In terms of costs, generally, urine and saliva tests range from $85 – $140, and hair follicle tests range from $330 – $880, depending on the supplier.

As our family lawyer made note, there are a few considerations before doing hair testing:

  • They need 3.9 cm (3-4 months) of hair.
  • It is essential to recognise that some people do experience slow growth in hair (referred to as telogen) which may last for up to 3 months, i.e., the hair stops growing. This occurs in 3-5% of cases.
  • When taking a sample, it is preferable to take it from the back of the head, which can’t be done if the length is more than 1.3 cm.
  • If the sample is less than 1.3cm, then turn to body, underarm, chest, leg, or arm hair.

Key questions our family lawyers gleaned from the discussion included the following:

Is It Best to Do a Breath Test During a Trip?

In some cases, a breath test before or after a weekend with children might be appropriate. An accredited tester could facilitate this; they can test the person before the visit and provide a certificate with the reading. If they don’t show the certificate, then they don’t see the kids. They can also do tests after seeing the kids and provide the certificate within 2 hours of the visit (this service is not offered in Sydney at the moment but will be soon).

What Is a Life Expectancy of An Alcoholic?

No two individuals are the same, but the average is usually between 2-5 years (unless more severe).

Does Chain of Custody Mean That Someone Is Witnessing the Test?

Most people think a supervised drug test is an observed drug test. However, they are not the same test. If you require supervision while peeing, you need to do an observed test, not supervised. However, they find that observed testing and unobserved testing usually produce the same result. Our family lawyers recommend you do the supervised test for a positive outcome.

What are the trends for alcohol and drug use among the Australian population?

Our family lawyers made note that cannabis and alcohol are the most common drug found (30% of the adult population smokes cannabis). There has been an increasing amount of meth and cocaine users across Australia. There is also a massive influx of legal THC (cannabis). However, often results indicate that the individual is consuming more than what is prescribed. On the other hand, there has been a decrease in heroin and opioid usage.

Does Dying Your Hair Effect Test Results?

Dyed hair through bleaching, dyeing, and perming does have an effect on the reading. However, our family lawyers have concluded from the seminar that there are washing and stripping laboratories that use a hair wash process before they test the sample. If there is too much damage to test the sample, the result may be slightly affected but generally not massively due to the hair wash process.

As a result, it is crucial to refrain from bleaching, dying, or perming your hair. There have been many examples of when people dyed their hair before the test.
Drug and alcohol testing issues are often at the core of family law matters, and our best family lawyers have specialised expertise.

In summary, it was a privilege to attend this insightful seminar as it shed significant light on the ideal practices required of family lawyers to ensure the best and most accurate evidence is presented to the Court in reaching a fair and just outcome. At O’Sullivan Legal, we have the top family lawyers in Sydney keep abreast and upon to date through attendance at such seminars.