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How Drug Abuse Can Affect Divorce

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Drug abuse is often cited as a reason for couples to divorce. Not only does the person dealing with a substance or drug abuse problem suffer, it is likely that their spouse also suffers from indirect consequences. The consequences can be even worse if there are children.

While most states do not require a couple to provide a material reason for their divorce, if one spouse abuses drugs or alcohol, this can have a direct impact on a divorce case. Typically, drug abuse will affect child custody decisions, as well as the division of assets. As such, it is not uncommon to see one spouse use the other spouse's drug abuse as leverage to negotiate a favorable divorce settlement, outside of court.

Not surprisingly, courts routinely deal with false drug abuse allegations between spouses. Depending on your state, there may be a different standard of proof required for evidence of drug abuse to be admissible in a divorce case.

Child Custody

Child custody is usually the most contentious issue in any divorce. Generally, courts are going to look to what is in the best interest of a child. It is unlikely that a court would award custody, even joint custody, to a parent that is shown to be a drug abuser.

However, despite the fact that courts routinely deny custody when drug or substance abuse is clear, the door rarely gets closed forever. Typically, judges will impose conditions that must be met, such as completion of rehab or continued enrollment in AA or NA, to be able to petition the court for a modification of a custody order.

Splitting Assets

A common problem among drug abusers is careless spending. When one spouse spends a couple's assets on illegal drugs, a court may order a disproportionate division of community assets to compensate the non-drug abusing spouse.

When it comes to questions of alimony, a court may not be willing to award a drug abuser support without conditions being attached, such as attending rehab or enrolling in AA or NA.

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