The opioid epidemic and the devastation caused by the abuse of alcohol and other substances are well known. Unfortunately, relationships of all kinds also suffer as loved ones try to help addicts and often fail. Substance abuse is a major issue in many marriages, and those marriages often fall apart because of it. To learn more about the way drug and alcohol abuse can affect divorce issues, read on.
Parenting Plans and Unfit Parents
In divorce, parents with minor children are expected to create a plan that allows the child access to both parents and that takes the health and well-being of the child into account. Unfortunately, parents addicted to substances are often not able to cope with either parenting plans or the provisions. While family court judges usually want the child to spend time with both parents, an unfit parent may call for one party to take on sole physical custody of the child with restricted visitation. Substance abusers can be helped, but you must not place your child in dangerous situations in the meantime.
What to Keep in Mind About Custody and Visitation
Most addicts know they are unfit to parent, but some persist in denial. You should be prepared to convince the judge of your spouse's inability to parent your child. Keep the following in mind when dealing with an addicted parent:
- Be ready to show proof of your spouse's abuse problems, if needed. Arrest records are best, but you may also ask the judge to order drug testing.
- You can always amend parenting plans. If the other parent gets help and is clean and sober, you may increase their visitation in the future. Your child will only benefit from being with a sober parent.
- Even limited visitation should be supervised and with no overnights.
Fault and Financial Issues
Fault is not used in divorce as much anymore, but even in so-called no-fault states, the drug abuse issue may affect financial arrangements. Drugs and alcohol require financial resources that should rightfully belong to both parties, and the lingering effects of substance abuse can continue to eat money as the divorce proceeds. It's not unheard of for drug abusers to use financial resources meant for a child's college education or to dip into precious retirement accounts. In some cases, the division of marital property can be adjusted if it appears that one spouse squandered money for drugs. That might mean the non-addicted spouse is provided with more than a fair share of marital property.
When addiction plays a part in your divorce, things can get more complicated. Speak to your divorce attorney about this issue as soon as you can.