Texas Mental Health, Addiction and Divorce
Compassion, Care, and Experience When You Need It Most
At Goranson Bain Ausley, our goal is to help our clients through one of the most challenging times in their lives. We estimate that over 50% of our family law cases involve either a client or their spouse who is experiencing a mental health or addiction issues. We are experienced and confident in helping clients achieve an optimal outcome when one or both spouses are living with a mental health or substance use disorder.
How does mental health and addiction issues affect divorce or other family law matters?
Mental health issues and addiction issues can challenge any marriage. The same mental health and addiction issues that affect your marriage may also impact your divorce, custody, and the division of your assets.
At Goranson Bain Ausley, we start with education. First, we listen to our clients to understand their mental health or addiction concerns. Then, we explain how those problems impact the various issues that come up in their divorce, including:
- Assigning child custody
- Determining visitation rights and schedules
- Assuring children’s safety
- Dividing property equitably
Many individuals who struggle with mental health or have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder may feel apprehensive about disclosing their diagnosis for fear of it affecting the outcome of their family law matter. In truth, the best thing you can do is be upfront and honest about your diagnosis. In addition, showing a commitment to taking steps to get the help you need, whether that’s through therapy or taking medication, demonstrates your ability to manage mental health and addiction issues that could impact your divorce or family law matter.
How can we keep the details of mental health issues private if it becomes public knowledge in a divorce?
Maintaining privacy in divorce when mental health issues are present is a significant concern for many families. A spouse’s job security or their relationship with their children is often why divorcing couples don’t want to ‘air’ their issues in open court with traditional litigation.
If this is a concern for you in the divorce process, you may want to consider Collaborative Divorce. In this approach, both spouses contract with their attorneys to work through the issues in their divorce, including child custody, with a team consisting of their attorneys, a financial neutral professional, and a mental health professional instead of going to court. By using the collaborative method, custody and financial issues are addressed individually and privately, outside of a traditional courtroom setting.
How is child custody affected if your spouse is being treated for mental health issues?
A child’s best interests is the central focus of a judge’s decision when determining possession and rights of a parent to a child. Several factors are used to determine what is in the child’s best interests, including the ability of each parent to provide an appropriate environment for the child and to have the ability to parent the child with a reasonable level of competence.
A judge will consider each parent’s emotional stability and ability to provide a child with a physically and emotionally safe environment. While minor, well-controlled mental health issues may not have much of an effect on custody, major mental health problems will. Texas law allows judges to consider mental illness as a factor that can limit, prohibit, or restrict custody rights. In Re Marriage of Swim, the court upheld custody limitations because the father stopped treatment for his bipolar disorder and relapsed with his use of illegal drugs.
However, in many cases, a parent’s visitation restrictions will be lifted after a demonstrated period of emotional stability and commitment to consistent, ongoing mental health treatment.
Substance Use Disorder and Your Family Law Matter
Substance use is at an all-time high in the United States. According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 40.3 million people aged 12 or older (or 14.5 percent) had a substance use disorder in the past year, including:
- 28.3 million who had alcohol use disorder
- 18.4 million who had an illicit drug use disorder
- 6.5 million people who had both alcohol use disorder and an illicit drug use disorder
Subsequently, we have seen substance use disorder become more prevalent in family law matters over the years. Our experience can help you and your family reach a constructive resolution that demonstrates empathy yet also establishes protections.
Strategies for successfully managing substance use concerns post-divorce can include:
- Completion of substance use disorder treatment
- Attendance at AAA meetings
- Monitoring of and testing for substance use
Experienced Family Lawyers at Your Side
At Goranson Bain Ausley, we recognize that mental health and substance use disorders are common issues in a divorce. If you or your spouse live with a mental health or substance use disorder, you can be confident that we will represent you with understanding and compassion, and guide you through the divorce process in the most constructive and advantageous way possible.