Drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and you may have been personally affected by this monster. When drug problems lead to divorce, almost every aspect of the proceedings is affected by the substance abuse of a husband or wife. Read on to learn about the potential ramifications of divorce involving a parent and partner who is abusing drugs or alcohol.
How Substance Abuse Affects Parenting Plans
While moderate and responsible use of alcohol is not likely to have an effect on parenting arrangements, abuse that can be proven certainly will. Be prepared to prove allegations of abuse by presenting police reports, driving records, court records, proof of treatment, witness testimony, medical records, and so on. It should be mentioned that a parent who is sober and seeking treatment may still face some restrictions on visitation.
If the parents cannot agree on child custody, the parent who abuses probably will need to settle for visitation privileges rather than sole custody. If visitation is ordered for a parent with substance problems, the visitation plan may carry restrictions like the following:
- Supervised visitation only
- Curtailment of overnight or out-of-town visits
- Being ordered to attend substance abuse treatment in order to spend time with the child
- Termination of parental rights—if the actions of the parent resulted in serious injury to the child, the judge may order that the parent be stripped of all parental rights to spend time with the child.
How Substance Abuse Affects Fault in a Divorce
While the existence of no-fault divorce has curtailed the need to name grounds for divorce in many states, substance abuse can still influence divorce in all states. When the marital property is divided up, the judge may consider how the abuser's behavior both led to the divorce and to the marital debt load. For example, if the non-sober spouse sold property, incurred loans and credit card debt, and demonstrated other reckless financial behavior as a result of their substance abuse issues, the judge may order that the sober spouse receive more property and less debt.
How Substance Abuse Affects Spousal Support
While spousal support (alimony) is seldom ordered, it might still be needed by the sober spouse. The family court judge may order the spouse with the drug problem to pay the sober spouse support payments. This form of financial support may be rehabilitative in nature, which allows the spouse some time to gain employment skills and become financially independent. Theoretically, orders for spousal support are not supposed to be punitive, but it nevertheless remains an issue.
If substance abuse has negatively affected your marriage and a divorce is in your future, speak to a divorce lawyer as soon as possible.