Divorce and Child Custody When Drug Addiction Is a Factor

Edrie Pfeiffer
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Edrie Pfeiffer, Bankruptcy & Divorce Attorney

This is a freelance article from Gemma Herbert

Divorce and Child Custody When Drug Addiction Is a Factor

If you are married to a drug or alcohol addicted spouse then the reasons you might want to opt for a divorce or separation are clear. According to statistics compiled by the University Of California and Chapman University, based on analysis of numerous studies on the subject, couples who struggle with alcohol abuse or drug addiction are considerably more likely to divorce than couples who do not. [1] Marriage to an addict can be hard and heart breaking: you have to watch the person you love hurt themselves and become ill because of decisions that they have made and are continuing to make. [2] When you can no longer face that daily struggle time comes to talk to your spouse and agree that you should divorce: a decision that is all the more heart breaking and difficult for couples that have children.

Minimize The Impact of Your Drug or Alcohol Abuse on Your Divorce                                            

According to researchers from Pennsylvania State University, drug and alcohol abuse are the third most popular reason people cite for divorce in the United States, with this being the reason for 10.6% of all American divorces. [3] The only two reasons for divorce cited more often than this were infidelity, which was cited in 21.6% of all divorces and incompatibility, which was cited in 19.2% of all divorces. If you are seeking a divorce, or your partner is seeking to divorce you, but you are still in the grips of an addiction to either drugs or alcohol then one of the first and most proactive things you can and should do is to show that you are willing to change and enter a rehabilitation program: this is particularly important if you have children that you would like a seek access or even shared custody of. Many people use the prohibitive costs of many rehabilitation programs as a reason to avoid entering rehab, however there are low cost and even free rehab programs available across the country, so that certainly shouldn’t be considered a reason not to try to shake your addiction quickly, before your divorce proceedings begin.[4]

Addiction and the Custody of Children

There is very little sympathy in court for those people seeking the custody of children who are simultaneously struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction. If you are hoping to maintain a relationship with your kids, either by having regular access to them or even by sharing custody of them with your former spouse then this is only going to be likely if you can prove that you have sought treatment and are planning to change your lifestyle dramatically for the sake of your family. This conversation will also be easier if you have your former spouse on board and they are prepared to support your application for access to your children. Children need to have a stable adult presence in their lives: when there is addiction in a marriage, this stability is often missing because both adults (the addict and the adult supporting the addict) are focusing on maintaining that relationship rather than on the needs of their children. It is likely, therefore, that you will both be better parents when you have separated.

There are between 12 and 13 million alcoholics in the United States right now, so if you are struggling with an addiction then it’s important to remember that you are not alone.[5] However if you hope to stand any chance of continuing to have access to your children once your divorce has been finalized then rehabilitation is your only real option. It’s important to note that while you and your former spouse might agree that you should have regular access to your children, if the court decides that your addiction could have a negative impact on your children then they can still refuse to allow you this access in order to protect your offspring. Seek the assistance of a rehabilitation center, your physician and a therapist sooner rather than later, to give as much strength as possible to your case to maintain either custody of or access to your children as early as possible.

If you are ready to move forward with an uncontested divorce, or need counsel for a child custody case, please give us a call today at (757) 340-3100!