Since addiction often causes strife in a marriage, it isn’t surprising that substance abuse can also become a major focal point for a divorce. Navigating the dissolution of marriage while your former partner is still actively abusing narcotics is often extremely difficult, which is why you need to consult a Brooklyn divorce lawyer as soon as possible. Proof of addiction can radically impact key elements of a divorce, whether you are splitting up with a functioning addict who still maintains employment or someone who is engaging in erratic or criminal behavior.

How Drug Addiction Impacts Divorce Proceedings in New York

If rehab hasn’t worked or isn’t a viable option and the marriage can’t survive, divorce may be the only option left. In some cases, it may be in your best interest to file for a fault-based divorce over cruel and inhumane treatment, which can stem from actions your spouse took while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

It’s important to understand that moderate drinking or occasional cannabis use isn’t typically enough to justify this route. Violent actions due to serious addiction can potentially Substance Abuse Word Cloudmeet the standard for cruel treatment, whether your former partner is abusing alcohol, illegal drugs, or even medication that was legally prescribed by a doctor. If your spouse’s addiction has led to a household that isn’t safe for you or the children, this may be an option to consider. You aren’t required to go that route, however, and in some cases, it's actually better not to seek a fault-based divorce.

New York now effectively has a “no-fault” option by citing the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for at least the last six months as the reason for the divorce. Your husband or wife’s addiction can still impact decisions made by the court, even if it isn’t the sole reason for the divorce. If you and your spouse can’t come to agreements together on certain key issues, a serious addiction by one party may impact:

  • Alimony (spousal support). Simply having an addicted spouse won’t necessarily sway the court to make changes to spousal support orders. If the addiction directly caused financial problems for you as a couple while you were married, it very well may play a role in that decision, though.
  • Child custody. The court strongly considers the children's best interest when determining child custody. In these situations, the sober parent has a better chance of getting primary or sole custody of the kids after a divorce. The court will typically want to place any children in the home situation that is most stable and will have the least issues with schooling, being near family, and avoiding problems with law enforcement.
  • Division of property. Like with alimony, the fact that one spouse was abusing drugs or alcohol doesn’t immediately bring a change to the division of property. However, there may be instances where an addiction led the spouse to waste marital assets that would have otherwise been available, and that can lead to major changes in how assets are divided.

It’s important to keep in mind that when you bring up drug or alcohol addiction in a New York divorce, the judge may require drug testing from either or both parties. The court could also order the addict to pursue addiction treatment, attend recovery meetings from groups like AA or NA, and refrain from using illicit substances while caring for the children. In some cases, ongoing addiction may bring serious changes to custody arrangements, such as requiring supervised visitation.

If you are planning on seeking a divorce over addiction issues, it is crucial to speak with an experienced attorney early for advice on how to document the negative effects of the addiction while remaining within the bounds of the law. Protecting yourself and your children should be your primary concern if your soon-to-be-ex continues to use illegal substances on your property.

Do You Need to Divorce an Addict?

Divorce is already a difficult situation, both emotionally and legally, even without drug abuse. That’s why you need someone on your side with experience in these types of cases who can help guide you through the process. Use the online contact form or call 718-233-2903 to schedule an appointment with Theodore Alatsas and discuss what steps you should take next.

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Ted Alatsas
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Trusted Brooklyn, New York Family Law Attorney helping NY residents with Elder Law and Asset Protection