The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy has experience in dealing with substance abuse issues and their impact on families. We can guide you on the legal steps to take in a crisis and develop a long-term plan for your family and your peace of mind.
Unfortunately, no one can force an addict to accept help, but we can support those impacted. Many people find themselves in family law matters due to an impairment of one of the parties, such as an untreated mental health issue or substance abuse.
This can cause chaos, confusion, and fear for the family. People living in these situations are often surprised or embarrassed to ask for help.
We have experience providing support and legal guidance in these types of cases. If you think you or your co-parent may be experiencing these issues, there are steps you can take to protect yourself, your children, and your future.
Common Kinds of Substance Abuse and Addiction Issues
Substance abuse is a leading cause of family destruction, marital unhappiness, and problems in all other areas of the impaired person’s life. People with severe chemical dependencies can rarely function effectively in marriages or as parents. They are unable to prioritize anything above their addiction, including their children, spouses, jobs, or finances.
If you are dealing with someone who has an addiction, it is important to have healthy boundaries, understand what you are facing, and have a plan of action. People with substance abuse issues may not appear impaired when they are under the influence, so it is important to educate yourself about the available tools and resources.
Whether an addiction surfaces before or during a legal battle, it will significantly impact the case. Even a single conviction, even one that occurred many years ago, can raise concerns about a person’s ability to provide a safe environment for their children or act responsibly.
Custody cases are especially sensitive to concerns about substance abuse. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “more than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems.” Once someone alleges alcohol or drug abuse, the judge must determine what possession, decision-making, and safety protocols are appropriate. Parents with substance abuse issues are generally not given unrestricted access to their children unless they can show that they are in an ongoing recovery program, are monitored and/or frequently tested, and that access is appropriate and in the best interests of the children. Mental health professionals often assist in facilitating or assessing the relationships in the family.
If you are struggling with a drug or alcohol dependency and need legal support, we can help. You may be afraid or embarrassed to reach out for assistance, but you are not alone. We have helped many people in your situation. The stigma of needing help is being lifted, and courts want to see that parents are actively seeking the help they need. We can recommend a variety of assessments, treatments, and ongoing monitoring options for individuals and families, based on your specific situation.
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Arrests
Being arrested for DWI can negatively impact a person’s credibility and the outcome of their family law case. Texas law encourages parents to share the responsibilities and pleasures of parenthood, including providing a safe and stable environment for their children.
If DWI charges are pending, the conviction was recent, or if a parent has multiple DWI convictions, courts may be concerned about their ability to provide a safe and stable environment for their children and may award Sole Managing Conservatorship to the other parent.
If substance abuse and its consequences are factors in your family law case, you should consult with an attorney experienced in this sensitive area of law. Inexperienced attorneys may focus solely on substance abuse allegations and ignore other factors that the court will consider when determining what is in the best interests of the children.
This could leave you vulnerable to countermeasures by the other party’s attorney. Protect your family. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy are skilled in identifying the weaknesses in your case so that the other party cannot use them against you.
How Mental Health and Medical Records Get Handled
Medical records may be relevant in divorce or child custody cases. Many people believe that HIPAA and doctor-patient privilege protect all medical and mental health records from disclosure.
However, there are specific exceptions to these rules. There are also various ways to obtain medical records in divorce or custody cases, and there are ways to protect your privacy.
If you are concerned about something in your medical or mental health history and how it may affect your case, discuss it with an attorney to determine the best way to proceed.
If you are seeking information about your spouse’s or child’s parent’s medical records, it is important to work with an attorney who is skilled in obtaining the necessary records and ensuring that the information is collected and used appropriately in any hearings or trials.
Types of Mental Health Impairments
High-conflict litigation often involves one parent with a personality disorder or other mental health impairment. The most common disorders we encounter are narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and anxiety.
Finding relief from these relationships can be emotionally challenging and sometimes dangerous. We will be with you every step of the way.
Some divorces or custody cases begin because one party believes the other has a mental health issue. Many more discover the existence of an issue during litigation. Some spouses may know something is wrong but not know what. Others may know of a diagnosis or have information from a marriage therapist that gives them some insight into what they are experiencing.
Either way, not knowing where to turn or what to expect in your case can be overwhelming. Clients often describe living or co-parenting with someone who has a mental health diagnosis as living in a constant state of “walking on eggshells.” Many more worry that no one will believe their story or that the dangerous spouse will be able to lie effectively to the court, psychological evaluators, and mental health providers.
If you know or believe your spouse or co-parent has a mental health disorder, it is essential to address your concerns with the appropriate professionals to determine how this impairment impacts that parent’s ability to parent.
How court orders impact parenting time
Without a court order, either parent can keep or take the child whenever they want. The court cannot enforce a parenting plan that does not have a court order.
When a person owned a home before a marriage, do they get to keep the house?
In Texas, marital property is any property acquired during the marriage. Property acquired before the marriage is considered separate property and remains with the owner during the divorce.
However, it can get a bit more complicated than that. If one spouse invested in paying bills or making home improvements on the other spouse’s separate property, they may be entitled to a share of the property as well.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) have characteristics that can negatively impact families and children. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-V-TR), NPD is characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.
People with NPD typically have at least five of the following symptoms:
- Grandiose sense of self-importance
- Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- Belief that they are special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
- Need for excessive admiration
- Sense of entitlement
- Interpersonally exploitive behavior
- Lack of empathy
- Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
- Arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes
The severity of NPD symptoms can vary, and people with NPD may exhibit specific behaviors when faced with criticism.
If you believe that your marriage or your children are being impacted by someone with NPD, it is important to seek help for yourself, your children, and the person with NPD. There is no longer a stigma associated with mental health problems, and courts expect parents to obtain the help and treatment they need to be productive and healthy.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) can turn an otherwise loving home into a frightening or dangerous situation, especially if left untreated. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-V-TR), BPD is characterized by a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity.
People with BPD typically have at least five of the following symptoms:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
- Patterns of intense, unstable, interpersonal relationships that alternate between extreme idealization and devaluation.
- Identity disturbances; markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
- Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
- Instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
- Chronic feelings of emptiness.
- Inappropriate flares of intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant aggression, recurrent physical fights).
- Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
Other traits and symptoms can also be present in people with BPD.
Even if someone does not meet all five of the diagnostic criteria for BPD, they may still have traits of the disorder that negatively impact their relationships, including their relationships with their children or spouse.
If you are living in fear of how a loved one with BPD may react, you should seek help from a lawyer. A lawyer can help you protect yourself and your children and turn your home into a place of comfort rather than chaos.
In a divorce, the spouse with an anxiety disorder may feel like they are unable to control their environment or their child’s environment. The stress of this change can often worsen the underlying disorder.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-V-TR), an anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive anxiety and worry about several events or activities, difficulty controlling the worry, and physical symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance.
The severity of anxiety symptoms can vary. In its most severe forms, anxiety can prevent someone from completing their normal routine and create an unstable home environment.
If you or your spouse has anxiety, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional before it intensifies and impacts those around you. You should also find a lawyer who understands your needs and concerns.
Proving Substance Abuse in Court
Proving substance abuse in court is difficult. Many people have suspicions that their spouses are abusing substances, but these suspicions are often based on perceptions and feelings rather than factual evidence.
Even when people are asked to be truthful, they may not always be honest about their substance abuse. In court, this can lead to a back-and-forth between witnesses that is unproductive and wastes the judge’s time.
Unless there is direct evidence of substance abuse, it is better to move on to other issues in court. If you have direct evidence, such as a substance abuse history, you should provide it to your attorney.
Mental Illness as Grounds for Divorce in Texas
Texas is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that neither spouse needs to prove that the other did something wrong to get a divorce. However, Texas also recognizes fault-based grounds for divorce, including cruelty, adultery, felony conviction, abandonment, living apart, and confinement in a mental hospital.
Mental illness is not specifically listed as a grounds for divorce in Texas, but it can be the root cause of a fault-based ground. For example, someone with a mental illness may be convicted of a crime, exhibit cruel behavior, or be confined to a mental hospital.
If a judge grants a divorce based on a fault-based ground, it can affect child custody, property division, and other matters. The spouse who proves the fault-based ground may receive a more favorable outcome, as the court has a reason to depart from the standard equal division of marital property. Similarly, the court may consider the behavior of the at-fault spouse when determining spousal support and child custody arrangements.
Therefore, if you are divorcing a spouse with a mental illness in Texas, it may be beneficial to cite a fault-based ground for divorce. At the very least, you should discuss this with your divorce attorney.
Conservatorship, possession, and access relating to parents who are alleged drug or alcohol users or abusers
Texas family law courts seek to ensure that children have contact with both parents who act in the children’s best interest and provide safe environments. The court’s primary consideration is always the best interest of the children when making determinations of conservatorship and possession and access to children.
If there is evidence of drug or alcohol use or abuse, the substance-affected parent is likely to only receive supervised possession and access to the children. This could be the nature of the temporary orders or a modification of them as necessary.
If temporary orders require the parent alleged to use or abuse drugs or alcohol to submit to regular or surprise random testing, a failed test result will usually result in the court ordering supervised possession and access. Additionally, the court can order the parent to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and substance abuse evaluation and education. The court may also order temporary or surprise random substance testing, which can be frequent and expensive.
Mental Health and Addiction in Divorce Attorney in Tarrant County, TX
If you are in the process of trying to divorce a partner who suffers from a mental illness or is dealing with substance abuse issues, or you are wrongfully being accused of being a drug or alcohol addict, you are going to need legal help. The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy will be able to help you protect your rights and achieve the most favorable outcome for your case in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, Southlake, and other cities in Tarrant County, Texas.
Do not wait to call (817) 422-5350 or contact us online to set up a free consultation so we can fully explore all of the options available to you. Our firm has helped scores of people who have had to work through these kinds of issues, so we understand what is necessary when your case eventually heads to court.