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Court of Appeals: Drug use alone can’t be the reason to prevent child visits


Michigan family courts can no longer use failed drug tests as a core reason to suspend someone’s parental visitation time.

This week, a state appeals court overturned a decision that kept a woman from seeing her child until she had three consecutive clean drug tests.

Attorney Luke Nofsinger worked on the case. He said, in this situation, the time the mother did spend with her child went well.

“So, imagine being that child, having parenting time, having it for some time and then, unbeknownst to you, not seeing Mom for a while because Mom tested positive for marijuana. It certainly had a negative effect on the children,” Nofsinger said.

He also said the precedent the case sets will have a broad impact on family court cases across Michigan.

He pointed to a footnote in the opinion that explains the case applies to positive drug tests "regardless of whether marijuana is involved or some other drug."

Nofsinger and fellow attorney Vivek Sankaran see it as a win for Michigan families.

Sankaran directs the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School.

He said he appreciates the opinion’s emphasis on the importance of parental visitation.

“For kids in foster care, seeing their parents is their lifeline, and we have to be very, very diligent in making sure that happens unless it is absolutely necessary to cut it off because of harm to a child,” Sankaran said.

The decision applies to missed drug screenings in addition to drug use alone, as long as there’s no threat to the child’s safety or health.