You have undoubtedly faced your share of difficulties in your marriage. Perhaps you have dealt with financial struggles, disagreements and your spouse’s priorities that always seemed at odds with yours. However, if the root of these difficulties is your spouse’s substance abuse, you likely understand you may not be able to win this battle.
If you have tried every method for keeping your marriage intact, you may feel you are out of options. Your spouse refuses treatment or has tried unsuccessfully more than once. If you and your children are suffering because of the damage that often accompanies marriage to an addict, your first step is to obtain as much information as possible about the special circumstances involved in divorcing someone with an addiction.
Your special circumstances
As personal as it may seem, your spouse’s addiction is an issue that is completely separate from you. Nevertheless, your partner’s choices deeply affect your marriage because they erode the fundamentals of a healthy relationship, including trust, fidelity and security. Years may have passed since you felt any closeness with your spouse, and you may spend much of your time trying to prevent or repair the damage your spouse does because of substance abuse.
California is a no-fault divorce state, so you will not need to prove your spouse’s addiction to obtain a divorce. However, drug or alcohol abuse may have a serious impact on certain aspects of a marriage breakup, including the following:
- Property division: If your spouse has dissipated marital assets to fund his or her drug or alcohol habit, the court may grant a more favorable order for you.
- Support issues: The court may determine that your spouse must support you and, of course, your children because of the marital funds spent on his or her addiction.
- Child custody: Painful as it may be, you may have to prove to the court that your spouse is unfit to share custody of your children.
- Visitation: If you fear your children will be at risk in your spouse’s care, you may have to petition the court to deny your spouse unsupervised visitation rights unless he or she can remain sober.
These and other issues take on a greater urgency when your spouse has an addiction. If this is your situation and you are ready to begin the process of ending your marriage, you would do well to seek the legal counsel of a professional who is experienced in handling divorces with these special circumstances.