The Role of Addiction in Divorce [and What Can Be Done About It]

Sometimes an addiction can be found at the root of a couple’s marital problems, and short of the affected spouse getting treatment, divorce may be the only way out. In most states, the law is sympathetic to the spouse of an individual struggling with addiction—particularly in cases involving abuse, financial recklessness, and other common, associated behaviors with addiction. If you’re faced with this particularly sensitive issue in your own relationship, there are several steps you can take to proactively confront your spouse’s addiction from the moment you file for divorce.

Don’t try to hide it

Although you might prefer to conceal your spouse’s addiction—to protect your own and your spouse’s reputation, for instance—you will be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t immediately disclose this concern to your lawyer. Revealing this detail after-the-fact can compromise your credibility in court, and the judge may not even consider the addiction when making important decisions regarding child custody and alimony.

Understanding domestic violence

The U.S. Department of Justice defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” It can include physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats that affect another person.

If your former spouse has committed these types of behaviors as a result of an addiction, you can use such evidence as leverage to protect yourself and ensure the best interests of you and your children in court.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia currently have statutes that require courts to consider instances of domestic violence when resolving a custody or visitation dispute between parents. Different states require more extensive evidence to support a domestic violence claim, so you should ideally collect all available records to support your claims from the start. Since domestic violence can often be exacerbated after the initial filing for divorce, don’t hesitate to continue to report all instances to the police to keep records.

Path to recovery

In addition to the disincentives created by limited custody and higher support payments—to say nothing of the divorce itself—the judge in your divorce case will likely order the abusive party to attend counseling, enter a treatment program, and/or undergo mandatory drug tests for a specified period of time. The positive side of these stringent orders is that they often do encourage addicts to actually get the treatment they desperately need. Although this is, unfortunately, not always the case, having a legal framework in place can give you more control over your life going forward.

If you or your spouse is currently suffering from an addiction, and you want advice on confronting this issue in divorce court, contact the experienced legal team at the DiPietro Family Law Group today at 202.609.7446.

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