Addiction and the Family Unit

Posted by Erin Birt | Sep 28, 2010 | 0 Comments

What should you do if you realize that your spouse or ex-spouse is abusing or addicted to alcohol or drugs? Options for a family in transition are collaborative practices or traditional litigation when substance addiction or abuse is an issue for a family. This post will focus on Divorce and Addiction and the Family Unit.

As long as all parties and children are safe, it is possible to use collaborative law services if the spouse or ex is in therapy/rehab and sober for a period of time.  The person needs time to learn healthy coping skills and to feel emotions again.  Such skills are needed to engage in meaningful negotiations.  This person should also have a strong support group: an attorney, a coach, a therapist, and family/friends.  

There are several benefits of using collaborative practices, however one benefit that has been important to clients is that the drug use (past or present)will not become public (but if there is a pending criminal case it is already public) and thus is less likely to jeopardize the persons employment. It is also less likely to cause the person to be defensive which may interfere with their recovery.  The collaborative approach will help the parties to create a visitation schedule that allows the party with the addiction to heal and continue a relationship with the family and child/children. Team members and professionals can help the parties to determine boundaries and goals that will help facilitate a safe and meaningful relationship with children.  

Often in family litigation, if this situation arises, visitation is suspended. No time is used to develop a plan to help repair the family. This can hurt the parent and the child/children.  But in a collaborative setting,  a professional counselor and child coach can help the family deal with the substance issue and help create an agreement, whether its temporary or permanent, that can help the family through this difficult time.

Sometimes, the disease of addiction is such that a parent is not fit to be around family or children.  If this is the case, an intervention can be planned or hospitalization or inpatient treatment should be evaluated.  When a person is not fit to care for themselves, the family, or children, the collaborative process should not be initiated, but if so it should be suspended or altogether stopped. 

If the collaborative approach is not acceptable to both parties or is not safe because the drug use is current and the person is not able to make decisions, the traditional adversarial system (litigation) should be considered and used.  Typically in litigation, an emergency motion to modify visitation and/or custody is filed with the court.  A hearing date will be selected by the party or attorney filing the emergency motion.  On the initial hearing date, the court needs to decide if the issue is an emergency.  If the court deems the issue an emergency, the court will proceed that day on the hearing on the petition to modify and enter a temporary order and then set the matter for a hearing date when all parties can be present. The temporary order may modify the visitation schedule, suspend visitation, or require supervised visitation.  If the court does not deem the issue an emergency, it will not enter a temporary order, but rather it will enter an order that sets a future date to hear the petition to modify.  If a criminal case is pending, the court may decide to set the hearing on the petition to modify at a later date when the criminal case is either resolved or at least under way.  Criminal cases can take a long time to resolve, a temporary order may be entered subject to the outcome of the criminal case.

When addiction or substance abuse affects the family unit, it is best to consult with a professional so that you can determine what needs to be done to protect your family and children during your divorce. Our firm focuses on Illinois divorce that is complicated due to Addiction and the Family Unit. Contact us today to protect you and your family during your divorce.

Schedule a Consultation with Attorney Erin Birt

About the Author

Erin Birt

Since 2003, Erin N. Birt, J.D., CADC has focused her practice on parenting time, divorce, mediation, and substance abuse issues. Ms. Birt's unique background in both family law and addictions counseling help her clients successfully navigate the complex issues of coparenting and divorce. Ms. Birt also devotes her time to presenting at continuing education seminars for attorneys, mediators, and counselors.


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Family Centered Divorce ∙ Mediation ∙ Co-Parenting

Birt Family Law is the family centered law and mediation practice with a focus on Restorative Divorce; offering creative and supportive legal and mediation solutions with one goal: keeping the separating family out of court and working together towards a positive resolution.

We offer multiple options to achieve this goal including mediation, coaching, co-parenting strategies, and Restorative Divorce services. 

Are we the right fit for you?

Birt Family Law is committed to keeping the separating family out of court and working together towards a positive resolution.