The prevalence of substance abuse in America is an unfortunate reality. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration's research, tens of millions of Americans experience problems with alcoholism or drug abuse. Naturally, these problems can place a strain on a marriage, and many people report that substance abuse was one of the main causes of their separation. Many people who are divorcing a spouse with substance abuse issues wonder about the special considerations that those issues need. As it happens, substance abuse can have both legal and practical effects on the divorce process.
Legal Effects of Substance Abuse
The two main legal effects of substance abuse on divorce are as grounds for divorce and during the child custody proceedings. Substance abuse can be grounds for divorce in Illinois, meaning it forms the actual reason for the divorce, but this is less important than it once was. Illinois has a “no-fault” divorce law now, so spouses can get divorced based on irreconcilable differences. However, having grounds for the divorce may be able to speed the process up since there is a required six-month separation period in no-fault divorces.
Importantly, having grounds for a divorce is not something that will affect how the judge divides up the property. Historically speaking, judges used to look at who was at fault for the breakup of the marriage to help determine issues of property division, but that is no longer the case. In fact, Illinois passed a law specifically forbidding that.
The other area of the divorce that substance abuse can affect is child custody. When determining custody issues, the judge attempts to develop a custody arrangement with the best interests of the child in mind. If one parent has issues of addiction or substance abuse, it may make him or her less fit to take care of the children, and in more extreme cases custody or visitation may actually endanger the child.
Substance abuse can also impact the divorce process in practical ways. Divorce is an emotional experience, and many addicts use drugs or alcohol to cope with strong emotions. This means that the divorce process may trigger a worsening of the spouse's substance abuse, which can result in things like missed court dates, increased belligerence, and, in extreme cases, violence. Collaborative divorce with a substance abuse counselor may be an option to prevent this downward spiral, but the abusing spouse may not always be receptive to the help. In severe cases where the abuser poses a threat to the other spouse or children, orders of protection are also an option.
If you are dealing with a substance abusing spouse and would like to get a divorce, reach out to an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney
today. Our firm is here to help you understand your options for handling the situation.