Substance abuse is an underlying cause of many divorces. Even if it wasn’t an issue during the marriage, the ending of a marriage often leads one partner to drown their sorrows in alcohol or drugs, creating or exacerbating a substance abuse problem.
While drug and alcohol use may have the greatest impact on child custody and visitation issues, use or addiction can significantly impact other aspects of divorce as well. It is a good idea to ensure that your divorce attorney is aware of substance abuse issues that may be going on with your spouse and that your legal advisor understands how to prevent and manage the challenges.
Property Could Be Divided Differently
In a Florida divorce, marital property is divided “equitably” rather than equally. An equitable division is whatever the judge considers to be fair based on the circumstances presented by the attorneys.
As a practical matter, the division process often starts out with the assumption that each spouse will receive property worth an equal amount, and then adjustments are made to account for various factors. If one spouse misused marital property, then the court is likely to award a reduced share to that spouse to account for the money they wasted.
So if a spouse with a drug or alcohol problem has large withdrawals or expenditures they cannot reasonably account for, a judge could determine that was a misuse of marital property, and they would be penalized with a reduced share in the property division settlement. If substance abuse reduced marital assets throughout the marriage, that also might be taken into account in property division.
Alimony Could Increase or Decrease Alimony
If one spouse uses drugs or alcohol excessively and that spouse requests alimony, the judge might decide the money would just go to fund the substance abuse, and they might award little or no alimony. On the other hand, if the spouse expected to pay alimony is the one with a substance abuse problem, the other spouse might be awarded additional alimony to compensate for losses during the marriage.
Child Custody and Visitation
While Florida law favors retaining contact with both parents, the primary determining factor in custody and visitation decisions is the best interests of the child. If substance abuse threatens the safety or welfare of a child and the problems are properly documented for the court, then the other parent is likely to receive sole custody. Depending on the evidence and the problems stemming from substance abuse, the court could limit visitation to supervised visits or even deny visitation entirely.
Denying parental rights is a serious step, so if a spouse wants to limit those rights because of substance abuse, it is critical to present persuasive evidence showing how the substance abuse problems affect the safety and welfare of the child. This could include requesting appointment of a Guardian ad Litem for the child, requesting the court to order drug or alcohol testing, and providing witness testimony.
The Team at West Family Law Group Can Protect Your Interests is Substance Abuse is an Issue in Your Divorce
If you are divorcing a spouse with substance abuse problems or your former partner is making unfounded accusations of substance abuse against you, the experienced divorce attorneys at West Family Law Group have the knowledge to protect your interests. This is a sensitive topic and one that can be challenging to prove or disprove, but we understand the strategies that succeed in court.
For a confidential consultation to learn how we could assist in your case, contact us today.