Thursday, September 10, 2015
How Do I Refer...? II. A Client With Alcohol/Drug/Significant Mental Health Issues?
Mental illness, drugs and alcohol. They are the fodder of the divorce tabloids, and a source of anxiety for clients with family law issues who also are struggling with these problems. Family law clients, particularly parents, fear a public parading of their substance or psychological health issues by their soon-to-be-exes. even if nobody’s holding a press conference in which they proclaim their “tiger blood” .
While California law is quite protective of patients’ rights and confidentiality, there is a risk, even in California, of “opening the door” on these sensitive issues, both to the court and to the public, unless the client receives good advice and counsel before the “door gets kicked open”. While courts go out of their way to protect minor children, and prevent domestic violence, there is a wide recognition that someone who is aware of their own issues, and is taking appropriate steps to address them, may be a better parent than someone who does not have the personal insight and motivation to acknowledge a problem. When necessary, portions of records can be sealed, and subject to a non-disclosure order.
It is also critical, particularly in cases involving children, for there to be good clear communication among the attorney, the treating health professionals, and the client. That way, the right balance can be struck between the privacy needed for successful treatment and the disclosure and acknowledgment which judges may seek to address the legal side of the problem.
Call us regarding our long history of addressing mental health and substance abuse issues in family law cases vigorously, effectively, and discreetly, of coordinating with mental health professionals of national repute, and of providing our clients both theoretical knowledge and practical means to resolve their issues.