Addictive substances, including alcohol, cigarettes and drugs

Can I Make My Family Member Go To Rehab?

Brazil Clark, PLLC June 30, 2022

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), following the pandemic, the percentage of people in the United States reporting anxiety and or depressive disorder increased from one in ten to three in ten. In Tennessee, the percentage of adults reporting such symptoms now stands at 34.6 percent compared to 31.6 percent nationwide.

This trend has also led to a rise in drug and alcohol abuse, particularly with reliance on opioids. The death rate from opioid overdoses has risen from 8.5 persons per 100,000 to 23.4 per 100,000. Fentanyl coming illegally into the country in disguised forms has only exacerbated the problem.

This poses great challenges for parents and family members who are witnessing their loved ones succumb to some form of addiction. What steps can you take besides trying to talk to them about their problem? Is there a legal way to force them into rehabilitation? There is, but it involves getting a court to grant you conservatorship of the family member, which can be a challenging process.

If you have a loved one who is suffering from addiction or mental challenges in Nashville, Tennessee, or anywhere throughout Rutherford County, contact Brazil Clark, PLLC.  

Those suffering from addictions or other mental problems have rights, and it can be legally challenging to get them the professional help and or rehabilitation they need. Contact us to review your situation and explore your legal options with you. We will treat the situation with the utmost compassion and understanding.

Can You Force Someone Into Rehabilitation?

Tennessee is one of 37 states with an involuntary commitment law, but the standards and legal barriers are high. If your loved one is a minor and facing an addiction problem, whether with alcohol, prescription, or illegal drugs, the law states that either the parent or the minor can consent to addiction treatment. When it comes to mental health issues, the minor must consent. Parental consent is not sufficient.

Once someone turns 18, the legal bar gets even higher. If your adult son or daughter is suffering from addiction, your only choice outside of personal intervention is to seek a conservatorship, which gives you the legal right to make financial and medical decisions for them. 

This is a court-based process, and to obtain the right to conservatorship, you must prove your adult child is disabled. Needless to say, the bar for doing that can be pretty high, especially if your child is leading what might be called a functional existence – working and caring for themselves.

Obtaining Conservatorship

A conservatorship is a legal relationship ordered by a court to take decision-making authority away from one person and assign it to another. To begin the process, the person seeking conservatorship must petition the court in the county in which the disabled person resides.

The petitioner can be anyone and does not have to be only a parent or family member. The petition must be filed, depending on the county, in either Chancery Court or Probate Court in Tennessee. There is no standard form for the petition.

What the Petition Must Include

The petition, which obviously outlines the disability, must also contain evidence to show that the respondent – the person subject to conservatorship – is disabled and basically unable to care for themselves. This requires a physician’s and or a psychologist’s “sworn examination report” about the condition of the respondent.

The examination must have been conducted within 90 days prior to the petition. If not, then a new examination will be ordered. If the respondent does not consent, the court may order one over the respondent’s objection.

The petition must also include detailed financial information, including:

  • A list of properties owned by the respondent and their fair market value

  • A list of the respondent’s sources of income from whatever source – pension, Social Security, public benefit, or other

  • A list of the respondent’s monthly expenditures

Once the petition has been filed, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem to investigate and determine whether a conservatorship is warranted. The court may also appoint an Attorney ad Litem to represent the interests of the respondent, especially if the respondent objects to being placed under conservatorship.

According to Tennessee law: “The rights the court may remove may include, but are not limited to, the right to vote, dispose of property, execute instruments, make purchases, enter into contractual relationships, hold a valid Tennessee driver's license, give or refuse consent to medical and mental examinations and treatment or hospitalization, or do any other act of legal significance the court deems necessary or advisable...”

A guardianship is similar to a conservatorship except guardianship applies to those 17 years of age or younger.

Turn to Knowledgeable Legal Counsel

Dealing with a family member’s addiction problem can be heart-rending and challenging. There can also be many obstacles, including legal, in getting that person the treatment necessary for recovery.

The attorneys at Brazil Clark, PLLC stand ready to meet with you, hear your story, and advise you of your best options. Contact us immediately if you are facing an addiction crisis with a family member in Nashville or anywhere in Rutherford County, Tennessee.