How to Prove Substance Abuse in Court: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

How to Prove Substance Abuse in Court: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
December 21, 2023
|   updated:
May 1, 2024

Not many people saw the horror you and your children experienced.

After all these years of silence, why am I only doing something about it now? My spouse is beloved in our community. We have a beautiful home. We both have nice cars and good jobs. Who’s going to believe me?

These thoughts reflect the reality of many parents faced with the prospect of litigating, primarily for the safety and well-being of their children, against their partner who has a substance abuse issue. Concerned with evidence collection, privacy concerns,  a potential custody battle, legal procedures, airing their private business, impacting other relationships, rehab, and the emotional toil this will have on their children, these parents wonder how they will ever prove their partner’s drug or alcoholism to a Court.

Sadly, they’re not alone.

Substance abuse remains a significant problem in the United States. Many families have dealt with and deal with challenges related to drugs and/or alcohol and have taken measures to prevent the further fracturing of their households. Notably, the NIAAA reports that nearly 30 million people nationwide struggle with some form of drug abuse or alcoholism.

Moreover, there are many situations in which a person may need to prove a parent or other party's substance abuse—or their own sobriety—in court. Knowing how, mainly if custody is involved, is critical. This article provides an overview of essential aspects related to proving drug abuse or alcoholism in court.

Evidence of Substance Abuse is Key in Many Legal Cases—Especially Child Custody Matters

There are several different circumstances in which a parent may be required to prove another parent's drug addiction or alcohol abuse. Indeed, questions about substance abuse often arise in Family Law cases, including divorce, separation, post-divorce/post-separation, and child custody disputes. Like many parents, you may be wondering about "how to prove substance abuse in divorce" or "how to document a parent's drug or alcohol use in a child custody or visitation case?

Regardless of the situation you find yourself navigating, it is essential to know that evidence is vital to success—and this is especially true for parents in child custody cases. Navigating a case can be especially difficult if the other party denies drug abuse and/or alcohol abuse. Proving substance use—with reliable and legally valid evidence is the key to protecting your rights and your family. 


Laywer and client meeting

Not All “Evidence” is Created Equal: It Must Be Admissible and Compelling

While evidence is at the foundation of any legal case, not all evidence is created equal. A Court may not even consider evidence that is regarded as unreliable or irrelevant.

Imagine being a parent embroiled in a child custody dispute. You have personally witnessed your co-parent using drugs and abusing alcohol. However, they deny doing either. To effectively assert your child custody rights, you will need to overcome your co-parent's defiance and denial.

How will a Family Court handle this type of child custody dispute? It depends. The testimony of one parent—their statement claiming that they have witnessed drug abuse or alcohol abuse—may not, by itself, be sufficient to prove substance use. 

Several evidence-related challenges can arise in a court case. Some evidence presented by the parent could be ruled inadmissible. Other evidence may be heard but may not be deemed sufficiently compelling.

Why Evidence Could Potentially Be Ruled Inadmissible in a Family Law Case

It is important to emphasize that not all evidence of drug abuse or alcoholism will be considered by the Court in a child custody case or other Family Law case. Although the specific standards vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, evidence of alleged alcoholism or drug abuse may be ruled inadmissible in the U.S. or Canada based on one or more of the following issues:

  • Lack of Relevance: Evidence can be deemed inadmissible if it fails to comply with legal standards for relevance. The Court must find that the evidence directly relates to a significant fact—the actual allegations—in the case. Irrelevant information can be excluded. For instance, testimony that a parent used drugs or alcohol more than a decade ago may not be relevant in a child custody dispute. 
  • Hearsay: Hearsay is a ground for inadmissibility. Hearsay is an out-of-court statement presented to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Unless the evidence falls under an established hearsay exception, it is generally not admissible. For example: Imagine that a parent in a child custody case says that their co-worker told them that the monitored parent was using drugs and consuming alcohol at a local bar. That is likely hearsay. The co-worker in question would need to testify directly for it to be considered admissible evidence.
  • Reliability: The chain of custody for the evidence must be clear and unbroken. If there is any indication that the evidence could have been altered, tampered with, or mishandled, it may be excluded. On these grounds, a remote alcohol monitoring report from an unreliable provider could be challenged. Allegations that a parent used drugs or alcohol may not be admissible evidence in child custody if not deemed reasonably reliable.


Woman viewing Soberlink's monthly client detail report

Proving (or Disproving) Alcohol Abuse is Easier with Remote Monitoring

Actual, verifiable, real-time alcohol monitoring test results can make all the difference in a legal case. Tamper-proof technology, such as Soberlink, is extremely reliable, not to mention convenient. A Concerned Party can use Soberlink’s portable breathalyzer to verify the identity of the test-taker and document alcohol use (or sobriety) in real-time. In challenging child custody cases, parents should always rely on the most trusted remote alcohol testing device.

Of course, evidence related to allegations of drug use or alcoholism is not only crucial for a  parent. Quite the contrary, a parent who has an alleged history of drug or alcohol misuse may also need to prove sobriety in court.

In the case of Soberlink, the same remote alcohol testing device that can be used to prove substance abuse can also be used to establish sobriety reliably, which is essential for a Monitored Client in a child custody case.



Soberlink's monthly client detail report on an iPad

Why Is It So Important to Rely on Court-Admissible Remote Alcohol Monitoring Technology? 

Proving substance abuse in court is key in many different contexts—from custody to recovery. While a wide range of evidence could potentially be used, the best evidence is the test results from a court-admissible alcohol testing device. In Family Law, the stakes are high, and the outcomes deeply impact the lives of everyone involved in the process. Court-admissible remote alcohol monitoring technology ensures accurate and verifiable tracking of a monitored parent’s alcohol consumption, not to mention promoting accountability and helping to reestablish the trust of everyone involved, including the concerned parent.

When you use a trustworthy device like Soberlink, remote alcohol monitoring test results are accepted as highly credible evidence—particularly when contrasted with witness statements. That said, it is essential to emphasize that not all remote breathalyzers are guaranteed to be admissible in court. Parents in a child custody matter should know that any testing device must be accurate, reliable, and able to deliver scientifically valid results.

Proving Substance Use in Court: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the Best Evidence-Based Practice for Substance Abuse?

The best evidence-based practice for monitoring substance abuse—particularly alcohol use—is remote alcohol monitoring. Test results will produce a report that provides objective, time-stamped evidence of an individual's alcohol consumption.

With a cutting-edge remote alcohol testing device like Soberlink, facial recognition technology verifies the Monitored Client’s identity during each test. Identity verification is essential in child custody and alcohol cases to confirm the intended individual is being tested and that it is not a sober buddy’s testing sample.

What Kind of Questions Do They Ask in a Substance Abuse Evaluation? 

It depends. In a substance abuse evaluation, the questions can vary based on the specific context and objectives of the assessment. As a general matter, these evaluations may include inquiries about an individual's history of substance use, drug use, evidence of alcoholism, patterns of consumption, impact(s) on personal and professional life, and any previous attempts at treatment or recovery. The evaluator may also explore underlying factors contributing to substance use, such as mental health issues or stressors. There may be other unique factors for parents in child custody cases.

What is a Substance Abuse Test?

Broadly defined, a substance abuse test is a test designed to assess a person’s use of drugs and/or alcohol. These tests can come in various forms—from breathalyzer tests, blood tests, urine screens, and hair follicle tests. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages. As an example, breathalyzer tests provide immediate results. 

For this reason, remote alcohol monitoring technology—often a court-ordered breathalyzer—is relied upon for real-time needs, such as monitoring for child custody and child visitation. Alternatively, a urine test can generally measure the presence of alcohol in a person's system over a more extended period—often as much as 72 hours after consumption.

How Do I Prove Alcohol Abuse in a Child Custody Case?

You need reliable evidence. Evidence can take many forms in the context of child custody cases and child visitation cases. Witness statements, police citations, and written communications could all be relevant to establish drug abuse or alcohol abuse. These types of evidence may be deemed admissible in child custody cases. That said, depending on the circumstances, there may be instances where they are insufficient for parents seeking to assert their custody rights.

In cases where alcoholism is a factor, remote alcohol monitoring technology is highly effective in this regard—especially for ongoing monitoring during shared child custody or supervised visitation periods. With the right provider,  remote alcohol monitoring provides court-admissible evidence through accurate, time-stamped alcohol level readings and reliable technology for facial recognition to confirm the identity of the party being tested. It is real-time monitoring that can be trusted.

What are some of the evidence-based practices for substance abuse?

Evidence-based practices for substance abuse, particularly for alcohol in the context of child custody, include Soberlink's monitoring system. Soberlink is considered the gold standard in custody cases due to its accuracy and reliability in providing real-time, court-admissible evidence of alcohol consumption or sobriety. This system supports the safety of the child by ensuring that all parenting decisions are made with a clear understanding of each parent's sobriety status.

What is an example of substance misuse?

An example of substance misuse is excessive alcohol consumption, which may significantly impair parenting abilities. In custody cases, Soberlink helps identify and document alcohol consumption, providing family law courts and attorneys with reliable evidence to assist in making informed custody and visitation decisions.

What is a substance abuse test?

An example of substance abuse is alcohol abuse, and testing for alcohol consumption can be effectively conducted using Soberlink. This device is tailored for custody and family law cases, allowing for the monitoring of alcohol consumption through advanced breathalyzer technology. Soberlink provides real-time results and utilizes facial recognition to ensure the identity of the individual being tested, making it a reliable tool for assessing alcohol use in legal contexts.

What is the most common form of substance abuse?

Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance, particularly in contexts that impact family dynamics and custody cases. Soberlink provides a specialized solution in such scenarios, helping to monitor alcohol use and ensuring that child custody decisions are made with the best interests of the child in mind. 

What is the most common drug test for custody?

While various drugs can be tested in custody cases, alcohol misuse remains a leading cause behind divorce and custody disputes. Soberlink's system is crucial in such cases, providing reliable, real-time monitoring of alcohol use, which is vital for making informed decisions about child custody.

Soberlink is the Leader in Remote Alcohol Monitoring

Attorneys, Family Law Professionals, Courts, and parents opt for Soberlink because the real-time data can be confidently used in all stages of a Family Law proceeding, including as a provision in parenting plans where child custody or visitation is a factor. It is an objective and non-intrusive means of monitoring, essential in sensitive cases.

The balance of thorough monitoring with respect for personal dignity strengthens the reliability of any legal case. It supports a more amicable and respectful process.

Soberlink makes it easier for parents to navigate issues of child custody and visitation when there are concerns about alcohol. The technology's ability to provide real-time, accurate data ensures that all parties have the court-admissible evidence to prove substance abuse (or lack of substance abuse).

Given that this article focused mainly on proving alcohol misuse in court, you may find interest in exploring the below list of topics for proving drug abuse in court. This list is not exhaustive (and does not represent legal advice). Still, you may find it to be a helpful starting point or even in preparation for meeting with a Family Law Attorney:

  • Legal evidence for drug abuse in court
  • Proving drug misuse in a legal setting
  • Court-approved methods for proving drug addiction
  • Documentation for drug abuse in legal cases
  • Drug abuse proof for legal proceedings
  • Building a case for drug misuse in court
  • Establishing drug addiction in a legal context
  • Court-accepted evidence of drug abuse
  • Demonstrating drug dependency in a legal setting
  • Legal strategies for proving drug involvement
  • Drug abuse verification for court cases
  • Admissible evidence for drug abuse in court
  • Presenting a case for drug addiction in legal proceedings
  • Effective methods for proving drug misuse in court
  • Legal criteria for demonstrating drug abuse in court
  • Legal steps to prove drug addiction
  • Drug misuse proof in court
  • Demonstrating drug dependency legally
  • Proving drug abuse for legal cases
  • Court-accepted evidence of drug misuse
  • Strategies for proving drug addiction in court
  • Effective methods for drug abuse verification
  • Presenting evidence of drug involvement
  • Legal criteria for proving drug misuse
  • Establishing drug addiction in a legal context
  • Building a case for drug abuse in court
  • Documentation for proving drug dependency
  • Admissible evidence of drug misuse
  • Court-recognized signs of drug addiction
  • Proving drug-related issues in legal proceedings
  • Demonstrating patterns of drug abuse in court
  • Legal process for proving drug dependency
  • Court-acknowledged signs of drug misuse
  • Presenting a case for drug involvement in court
  • Strategies for legally proving drug addiction
  • Methods for establishing drug abuse in court
  • Legal documentation for proving drug misuse
  • Steps to provide court-accepted drug abuse evidence 

Soberlink: Advanced Remote Alcohol Monitoring for Family Law

Soberlink's comprehensive system offers an innovative solution for alcohol monitoring in custody cases, combining technology and convenience to provide court-admissible documentation of sobriety that supports child safety and offers peace of mind for parents.

  • Discreet and Portable Breathalyzer: Soberlink's cutting-edge breathalyzer is designed for convenience and discretion, enabling parents to prove their sobriety anytime, anywhere.
  • Instant Notification System: BAC readings are immediately transmitted to designated parties through text or email, promoting transparency and trust in custodial situations.
  • Intuitive Software: User-friendly software ensures a seamless experience that eliminates hearsay, streamlining litigation and making processes more efficient for both legal professionals and parents.
  • Facial Recognition Technology: With advanced facial recognition, Soberlink automatically verifies the identity of the person being tested, ensuring accurate and reliable results.
  • Tamper Detection Sensors: Equipped with sophisticated sensors, the system effectively detects any attempts to cheat the system, maintaining the integrity of the testing process and promoting child safety
  • Expert In-House Support: Soberlink’s dedicated support team includes a compliance department, provides certified records, and offers expert testimony as needed, serving the needs of the family law community with over 10 years of experience

Learn More About Soberlink

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