As a parent, there is little more heartbreaking than having an adult child struggle with addiction. Rehab is often the only answer, but if the child is an adult, is there a way to force them to go? The answer is not straightforward as we may want. In the United States, the law prevents parents from forcing their adult children to do anything. A parent can force an adult child to seek help in certain situations, but they must prove that their child is an immediate threat to themselves or others.

Each state handles involuntary commitments to rehab facilities differently. In this article, we will explore if and how you can make your child go to a rehab in the state of New York.

It may not be the most pleasant solution, but it may be a possibility you should explore to help your adult child. There are many difficulties in dealing with this, and the most significant problem is your child feeling betrayed or angry at you.

If your adult child is facing court-ordered rehab, they should consult an attorney before starting the rehab program. Since qualifications differ from state to state, it’s essential to get advice before applying.

Who Are Adult Children With Addictions?

For a child struggling with addictions who is under 18 years old, you can take them to rehab despite their feelings. However, if your child is over 18, things become more complicated. The law prohibits people from being forced into treatment once they turn 18 unless certain factors are present:

  • You can establish that the person has an addiction to drugs or alcohol
  • There must be proof that the person has threatened, attempted, or done harm to himself or others
  • They can no longer provide basic needs for themselves—food, shelter, or clothing—because of their addictions, and there is no one else who can help.

As long as you have all these factors in place, you can pursue a rehab program or emergency hospitalization. Before going this route, it is crucial to get legal counsel, as each state has different qualifications.

When Can The Court Intervene?

According to New York’s civil commitment laws, the court can order your adult child into treatment or involuntarily committed to drug treatment if they meet specific criteria. The state of New York permits both inpatient and outpatient involuntary drug treatment under its assisted outpatient program.

Among the 27 states with mandatory involuntary drug treatment programs, each has different criteria for eligibility. New York determines eligibility based on the individual’s need rather than the individual’s likelihood of being dangerous.

New York Mental Hygiene Law states that a “mental disability” includes alcoholism, drug dependence, or chemical dependency. Although involuntary commitment does not distinguish between alcoholism, substance dependence, and chemical dependence in the definition of “mental illness,” these conditions may contribute to involuntary commitment.

As defined in N.Y. Mental Hygiene Law section 81.03, someone with a functional limitation is anyone whose behavior or conditions affect their ability to meet personal needs (food, clothing, shelter, health care, or safety) or manage their property regarding guardianship.

Who Can Start A Court Petition Ordering Your Child To Rehab?

Before being ordered to rehab, New York law specifies that a person with a substance use disorder or alcoholism must undergo evaluation by a medical professional. The examining medical professional must certify, and an official certification must accompany the petition showing the child requires intensive treatment.

Only the following people can start an order for assisted outpatient treatment:

  • A person 18 years of age or older and lives with the addicted adult
  • A parent, spouse, sibling, or child 18 years old or older of the addicted adult
  • The director of the hospital where the person is being treated
  • The director of any public or charitable organization, agency, or home that offers mental health services to the subject of the petition in the institution where they live
  • A psychiatrist supervising or treating your adult child for mental illness
  • A psychologist or social worker treating the said child for “mental illness”
  • The director of community services, or their designee, or a social services official of the city or county where your adult child and yourself live
  • The parole board or probation officer assigned to supervise your adult child’s behavior

Will Forced Rehab Help My Child

Whether voluntary or involuntary, no rehab program can guarantee success, which largely depends on the patient. Assisting a person to experience mental clarity free of mind- and mood-altering substances may help them realize their need for treatment. Although forced rehab may fail, it puts them in a position to consider their options and assess their situation, which is the first step to recovery.

There is a common misconception that forcing someone into rehab will make it less effective, but that is not true. Forcing your child to go to rehab with legal advice can be a valuable motivation to help them realize they need treatment. You may find that it serves as a wake-up call and helps your child take meaningful steps to change.

Many addicts continue to reject help for many years before accepting it, and overcoming addiction can take a long time. Although your child may feel resentment or betrayal, helping them seek treatment for the addiction is the best solution.

If you have questions about this issue, contact Katya Sverdlov at 212-709-8112 or to learn more or set up a consultation here: