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Why Parents Must Do a Hair Follicle Test for Child Custody Matters

WHS Guardian

3 min read

Jul 2




Child custody disputes are often complex and emotionally charged. In many cases, the court requires parents to undergo drug testing to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. One of the most reliable methods is the hair follicle test. This article explores why hair follicle testing is crucial in child custody matters, the legal framework courts rely on, what substances are screened for in Australia, and the importance of using a NATA accredited laboratory.

WHS Guardian has been providing these services for the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia since 2021.

The Importance of Hair Follicle Testing

Hair follicle testing is a powerful tool in child custody cases due to its ability to detect drug use over a longer period compared to other methods such as urine or blood tests. Hair can reveal drug use for up to 90 days or even longer, providing a comprehensive view of a parent's drug history. This information is vital in assessing the parent's fitness and capability to care for their child.

Legal Framework and Court Reliance

Australian courts have the authority to order drug testing as part of their assessment in child custody cases. The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) empowers the court to make orders ensuring the best interests of the child are met. This includes considering the safety and welfare of the child, where drug use by a parent is a significant concern.

Courts rely on the results of hair follicle tests to make informed decisions about custody arrangements. The long detection window of hair tests makes it difficult for individuals to hide habitual drug use, thus providing the court with a clear picture of a parent's substance use history.

Substances Screened in Australia

In Australia, hair follicle tests typically screen for a range of substances, including but not limited to:

  • Amphetamines (including methamphetamine and ecstasy)

  • Cocaine

  • Opiates (such as heroin, codeine, morphine)

  • Cannabis

  • Benzodiazepines

  • Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) - the primary metabolite of ethanol/alcohol which can be used to determine if heavy drinking is an issue.

The Importance of Using a NATA Accredited Laboratory

When it comes to drug testing for legal purposes, the accuracy and reliability of the test results are paramount. This is why it is crucial to use a laboratory accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) in Australia. NATA accreditation ensures that the laboratory meets rigorous standards for technical competence and quality assurance.

Risks of Using Foreign Laboratories

Using a laboratory based in the United States, India, or any other country without NATA accreditation can lead to several issues:

  1. Questionable Validity: Foreign labs may not adhere to the stringent standards required in Australian legal contexts. This can lead to results being questioned or deemed inadmissible in court.

  2. Legal Challenges: A solicitor can easily undermine the credibility of drug test results from a non-NATA accredited lab. They can argue that the lab's procedures do not meet Australian standards, potentially leading to the results being excluded from evidence.

  3. Chain of Custody Concerns: Maintaining a proper chain of custody is essential to ensure the integrity of the sample. Foreign labs may have different protocols, increasing the risk of tampering or contamination claims.

  4. Consistency and Reliability: NATA accredited labs are required to participate in regular proficiency testing and audits to ensure consistent and reliable results, a standard that may not be met by non-accredited foreign labs.


In child custody matters, the safety and well-being of the child are of utmost importance. Hair follicle testing provides a reliable method to assess a parent's drug use history. However, to ensure the accuracy and admissibility of test results, it is crucial to use a NATA accredited laboratory. Parents and legal professionals must be aware of the risks associated with using foreign labs and the potential for legal challenges that can arise from such decisions. By adhering to Australian standards, we can better protect the interests of the child and ensure that custody decisions are based on reliable and trustworthy evidence.

WHS Guardian

3 min read

Jul 2





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