How a Drug Offense can Affect a Divorce Case

The greatest benefit of a healthy marriage is probably all the positive effects it will allow both spouses and children to experience – things that may protect or cushion any family member who may face any social, emotional, educational or professional problems associated with daily living. So many marriages, however, deviate from the healthy path and eventually end in divorce instead. Various studies, in fact, show that so many couples divorce after just some years into marriage; worse, there are even couples who divorce after more than 20 years of living together. The reason for divorce? Some say they have just fallen out of love, while some others blame their spouse for becoming abusive or getting involved in illegal practices, like substance abuse.

Let’s face it – millions of Americans suffer from addiction – to alcohol, and illegal and/or prescription drugs. Though all states now allow spouses to file for divorce based on no-fault grounds (one simply has to indicate “irreconcilable differences” in the divorce form), those that still allow fault-based divorces consider adultery, cruel treatment, and drug or alcohol abuse as perfectly acceptable reasons why one spouse would decide to terminate his/her union with his/her partner. Thus, in these states, a spouse may be able to file for divorce due to his/her spouse’s substance abuse. The spouse filing for divorce (due to his/her spouse’s drug addiction) as well as the spouse being accused of drug dependence should fully know and understand how a drug offense can affect their divorce case and all divorce-related issues, including child custody and visitation rights, child support, division of assets, and alimony (it can also affect an application to modify court decision on all related issues).

Family courts take criminal offenses, including substance abuse issues, very seriously. With regard to the issue of child custody, for instance, while courts may not dwell on the issue of moderate drinking, it will strongly consider a spouse’s parenting ability if he/she were drug dependent. Thus, a spouse with a substance abuse problem:

  • Is less likely to be awarded custodial rights;
  • May not be given overnight visitation rights or may be required to make his/her visitation periods supervised by a professional (in extreme cases, though, a court may deny him/her visitation rights altogether);
  • May be required by the court to submit to drug and alcohol screens periodically, receive addiction treatment, or attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings;
  • May have his/her custodial rights terminated altogether if his/her substance abuse leads to child abuse or serious injury to the child.

Division of property and alimony can be affected as well, especially if the substance abuse results to the guilty spouse impacting the couple’s finances. In very uncommon situations, however, a court may instead require the sober spouse to pay alimony to his/her addicted partner, such as in a situation wherein the drug dependent spouse develops a mental illness that requires institutionalization; in this particular case the sober spouse may be required to pay cost of treatment that is not covered by disability benefits. In its website, the Arenson Law Group, PC explains that many spouses, despite acceptable grounds in fault-based divorce states, are unsure if they should really apply for divorce or if divorce is the right step in ending their union with their partner. Though there can be various signs that may point to divorce, such as loss of intimacy, trust issues, irreconcilable differences, or perpetual disagreements, divorce remains to be a complex process and can turn extremely frustrating and emotionally-draining if it ends up in court. With the help of a knowledgeable divorce attorney, however, a spouse may be able to save himself/herself (and his/her spouse) from public scrutiny by keeping their divorce case from being tried publicly in court. In the case of the spouse charged with a criminal offense, though the possibility of divorce may no longer be avoided, it does not mean that he/she should give up defending himself/herself from being convicted or from the very harsh punishment of the law due to one mistake that has eventually led to his/her present dilemma.

Drug-related crimes can have long-term effects: these can negatively impact one’s future personal, community and professional life. Protecting and defending the rights of a person accused of a drug offense is always worth doing, especially if this endeavor will give the accused another shot at life – an improved and better life for his/her sake and for the sake of those who will be part of his/her future.

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