Virginia has a drug addiction problem. According to The Commonwealth Fund1, our state suffered 17.1 drug-poisoning deaths per 100,000 Virginians in 2017 (the latest year for data). That may not sound like a lot, but it is significantly elevated above the 2013 rate of 10.2 deaths per 100,000. Your family law case — child custody, separation, divorce, spousal support — can be affected by drug addiction. Here is how to cope.

Are You Part of the Problem?

In families affected by drug addiction, the addict uses many techniques to shift responsibility and blame onto others. If you find yourself feeling guilty for your partner’s drug addiction, take a step back.

Are you supporting her habit? Are you encouraging her to abuse drugs, even while maintaining a household, raising children, or holding down a job? If you are not, then you are not the problem.

Safer Lock identifies seven typical behaviors the deceitful drug addict uses on family members:

  • Addicts lie
  • Addicts manipulate others
  • Addicts act unpredictably
  • Addicts become singularly obsessed
  • Addicts engage in crimes
  • Addicts shift blame
  • Addicts abuse family members

As you struggle to deal with a family law matter complicated by a family member’s drug addiction, remember that the responsibility for behavior lies with that addict, not with you.

What if, though, you really are the problem? You are addicted to painkillers, opioids, alcohol, methamphetamine, or something else. In that case, get yourself an excellent family law lawyer and, honestly, bluntly, stay silent. Let your lawyer do the talking. And of course, get yourself the help you need to work through your addiction issues.

Are You the Enabler?

Are you worried you are enabling your family member’s drug problem by striving to knit the family together? Experts at Addiction Center reassure you that you are not enabling the drug abuser unless you:

  • Ignore the addict’s shifty behavior
  • Harbor resentment for the addict without acting
  • Blame others and life’s situations for the addict’s behaviors
  • Cover up for the addict by lying to others
  • Do not express your emotions and viewpoints
  • Give in to fear
  • Put the addict’s priorities above those of your own or your other family members

If you sense that you have, on occasion, allowed the drug addict in your family to continue on the self-destructive path, relax. Unless you have icewater in your veins you are bound by the unwritten family contract to make concessions to each person in your household. You forgive the birthday girl when she throws a tantrum. You excuse an elderly relative for forgetting your children’s names. You excuse your addicted wife when she steals money from your wallet.

That you are even considering getting an attorney to resolve a family law issue means you are not enabling the addict. You have reached a breaking point; you are protecting your children. Whatever the motivation, you are getting help.

Are You a Lawyer?

Most clients of attorneys are not themselves attorneys. Most families face addicted family members only once. You have tried to be strong, but now is the time to turn to others.

Give in and get tried-and-true advice from professionals who have walked the path before. Bring your problem to a family law attorney and be blunt:

  • “I need to get a divorce because my wife is a drug addict.”
  • “My partner and I are splitting up but we need to provide for my drug-addicted teenage son.”
  • “My drug addicted wife spent a lot of my retirement account on methamphetamines. What can I do?”
  • “After our divorce, I think my ex-wife may be using drugs. She has custody of my kids! I’m freaking out.”

As soon as the first dollar passes from your hand to your attorney’s hand, you have attorney-client privilege, and anything you say to your lawyer cannot come back to haunt you. Your family secrets stay secret.

Your attorney can outline a legal strategy that also addresses the addiction. No two Virginia families are alike, of course, and no two addiction stories are the same. You need to be as forthcoming and honest as you can in describing the circumstances you are enduring.

Clients may not see with clarity how the drug addiction is a separate issue from the family law problem. Your family law attorney will, however. Trust your lawyer. Your attorney can steer you to help for yourself, your affected family members, and even the addict. One example is Virginia’s extensive network of Substance Use Disorder Services. Still another is Curb the Crisis, a program specifically aimed at Virginia’s opioid crisis.

When you contact us online or telephone our offices at 757-383-9184, you tap into the experience and skills of The Firm For Men. We are dedicated to helping Virginia’s men navigate all aspects of family law. We can handle complex issues like substance abuse and even accusations of child abuse. We will work to preserve your rights and defend your reputation.

1. https://scorecard.commonwealthfund.org/state/virginia