There is no denying that watching a loved one battle with addiction is incredibly painful. Whether it’s gambling, drugs, alcohol, or some other harmful behavior, it can completely derail their entire lives and the lives of those around them.
Even if children, finances, or fear of separation are keeping a couple together, divorce may be the only way out of this potentially harmful situation. Several factors make divorcing an individual who is facing addiction different from more common martial endings, and it’s imperative to consider them while filing for divorce.
Living With Substance Abuse
Living with a spouse who struggles with substance abuse is an emotionally charged situation that many people have to navigate. It may be hard to spot signs of addiction, depending on whether a functional or dysfunctional addict is involved. A functional addict can usually hide their addiction very well, hold a job, build tolerance, and appear normal overall. For this reason, it can be challenging to identify problematic behavior in a significant other more commonly associated with dysfunctional addicts, which may include:
- Multiple DWIs
- Inability to hold a job
- Erratic spending
- Violent outbursts
The way they deal with addiction could influence divorce proceedings and even the overall safety level of the sober spouse and children.
Trying to Get the Help They Need
Battling addiction is no small feat, and for some, it can have severe consequences. It is important that the person with the dependence receive the support they need from a licensed professional or treatment facility. It’s also best to seek individual and family counseling to start processing any trauma and helping children cope with divorce.
It’s important to note that while spouses may try to get help for their loved one, this doesn’t always work. After fighting hard to get a drug or alcohol dependent person the support they need, they could still deny the assistance and continue causing irreparable damage. This reluctant behavior can increasingly burden the sober partner mentally, emotionally, and financially.
When Divorcing an Addict Is the Best Option
Since addiction can be an uphill struggle, it can eventually wear down the other spouse to a breaking point. If the spouse suffering from addiction is also abusive, there could be an added threat of retaliation or violent outburst at the idea of divorce. In these situations, it’s crucial to prioritize safety during divorce proceedings.
Whatever the breaking point may be, it’s essential to protect the wellbeing of any children, preserve personal mental health, and maintain finances.
How Substance Abuse May Affect Divorce
Here are some facts that you should know about substance abuse in divorce cases:
- Drug or alcohol addiction alone doesn’t excuse a parent from child support.
- Addiction may be considered during a custody determination
- A child’s safety takes precedence.
- A judge may order treatment or other requirements for an addict to follow in order to retain or return their parental responsibility.
- It is important to consult with experts to better understand the specific addiction and its consequences.
Understanding Child Custody in Substance Abuse Divorces
Since Minnesota is a no-fault state, either party can apply for a divorce without proving their spouse’s wrongdoing. This means that a divorce will likely be granted even if one spouse is opposed. Substance abuse may be a factor in the custody determination. In Minnesota, the best interest of the child (or children) is paramount in custody decisions. It is possible that the Court will find that residing with a parent who is dependent on illegal drugs or alcohol is not in the child’s best interest, however, the Court’s decision could vary depending on the specific facts.
While mild to moderate drinking may not be an issue, heavy drinking and even recreational drug use can raise questions about a parent’s moral character. The top priority is to ensure that children are protected, safe, and properly cared for without concern that they are being exposed to drug and alcohol usage.
Co-Parenting With an Individual With Substance Abuse Problems
There are many factors that a sober spouse needs to consider when creating child custody agreements with someone who suffers from substance abuse. The following is a list of items to think about during child custody court proceedings:
- Design a child custody and visitation agreement that’s based on safety and stability;
- Include clause in the agreement addressing the potential of relapse;
- Required sobriety testing ;
- Potential third-party visitation;
- Visitation rights after proof of treatment; and
- Consequences for violating any part of the agreement.
While including some of these details may seem unfair or harsh, they can protect the children and help provide safety and stability measures. An agreement can be adaptable as the addict progresses through treatment and proves to be a reliable figure in the children’s lives.
Even though co-parenting may be ideal, it’s not always the best choice while one parent seeks treatment. Once sober, both partners can revisit the idea of split custody and parental rights. Click here to learn more about co-parenting and balancing school schedules.
Get Help Divorcing an Individual With Substance Abuse Problems
Finding the strength and courage to leave a marriage is hard. Sometimes, struggling addicts may have erratic behaviors that make it difficult for spouses or lawyers to interact with them. These actions can even become dangerous, which is why it is important to seek outside advice. Working with a knowledgeable and supportive attorney can help expedite this process and find safe solutions in the interim. Seek out the caring divorce attorneys from M. Sue Wilson Law Offices when divorcing someone who struggles with addiction.
This article contains general legal information and does not provide legal advice. For legal advice, please contact M. Sue Wilson Law Offices directly.