Unfortunately, many people find themselves ending their marriage because either they or their spouses are addicted to drugs or alcohol. It may be the cause of the break up, it may happen during the proceedings, or divorce may just be one of the after effects. Drugs and alcohol abuse affect amicable divorce proceedings in several ways—financially, logistically, and emotionally.
The addict spends marital funds and assets on the drugs of choice, which may ultimately affect the division of assets. The addict may not be as able to earn an income—thereby contributing less to funds available for support. This depends a lot on how functional the addict is.
The addict may need monitoring to ensure the safety of children during custodial time—if permitted. Some addicts fall asleep even when the children are around. Others drive under the influence while their kids are in the car. You may need to use a mutual friend or hire a professional supervisor to prevent anything really bad from happening.
The addict uses the drug of choice as an escape mechanism. The dads divorce, itself, is an emotional trigger that can exacerbate the desire for drugs or alcohol. If the addict is not able to handle emotional affairs easily without drugs, it can be worse during the divorce, and can retard the emotional process of mourning the loss of the family. This makes it even more difficult to negotiate rationally, and resolve the divorce quickly.
1. Is She an Addict? She drinks one or two glasses of wine each night with dinner. Has she refused to go without any wine? Does her behavior change after her alcohol consumption? Does she drink and drive? Has she been convicted of driving under the influence? Do other people comment about her drinking? Does she prefer to be around people who drink? Is she defensive about her drinking? Does she purchase alcohol on a frequent basis? Do the children complain about her drinking? An answer of “yes” to any of these questions raises a suspicion. She does not have to be an addict in order to address symptoms, however. Following are tips for dealing with this issue.
2. Alcohol/Drug Assessment If drugs or alcohol play a part or are a concern, ask for a thorough alcohol and drug assessment by a qualified psychologist or addictionologist. You may have to file a motion and get a Court order for it, but it is worth it. The evaluation should include several assessment tools or questionnaires based on DSM IV guidelines, personal interview with the alleged addict, interviews with other people, such as family members, and review of other collateral sources, such as court documents and a criminal background check. An assessment without the in depth analysis will probably not be as helpful. The results of the assessment should include recommendation for treatment and interaction with family members, including access to children.
3. Proving Addiction If your spouse is not admitting to their drug or alcohol habit, you may have to provide evidence to the Court or to the Court appointed evaluator. Here are some ideas:
• Keep a log of your spouse’s alcohol purchases and consumption.
• Check bank records and credit card statements for purchases being made at liquor stores and convenience stores at gas stations.
• If you see her making purchases at the same stores, bring a picture and ask the store clerk if he recognizes your spouse and/or remembers what she likes to purchase—store clerks make great witnesses!
• Hire a private investigator for surveillance to find out if she frequents bars.
• Ask the Court to order random drug and alcohol tests. This can take the form of a cheek swab, urinalysis, hair follicle test, hair strand test, and/or blood tests. You will need the Court order to include giving you or your top divorce attorney’s access to the results.
4. Recovery is a Family Affair It is always best for children if their parent recovers from their addiction. Divorcing from an addict does not change that maxim. The parenting plan should encourage and rewards recovery to help the addict through this difficulty without endangering the children. This can be done by providing for supervised visits, drug and alcohol testing, proof of attendance at counseling sessions, AA meetings, or NA meetings. Family members will benefit from attending Alanon or Narcanon meetings.
The children will most likely benefit from individual counseling or similar meetings for teens or children as well. In the end, know that the person you are dealing with now may not be acting like the person you once knew and may not be this way forever. It is important, nonetheless, to protect your children and your assets during the process.
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