Dealing with Substance Abuse During a Divorce

Divorce can be difficult even under the best circumstances, but when a factor such as substance abuse plays a role, it can become even more complex. Knowing what you may encounter while divorcing an addict can help you deal with divorce in the healthiest way for you and your loved ones.

To schedule a consultation with one of our divorce attorneys, contact us online or via phone at (845) 203-0997.

Can I Use Substance Abuse as Ground for My Divorce?

In New York, substance abuse is not grounds for divorce. The grounds for divorce in New York are:

  • Cruel and inhumane treatment by one spouse toward another;
  • Abandonment of one spouse for a year or more;
  • Imprisonment of three or more years, starting after the spouses married;
  • Adultery;
  • Living apart for one or more years after receiving a separation judgment;
  • Living apart for one or more years before separating.

However, it's important to acknowledge that substance abuse does often share a link with domestic violence. If your spouse engaged in domestic violence while abusing a substance, then you could file for divorce on the grounds of cruel or inhuman treatment.

Your spouse does not have to physically hurt you for you to qualify for a divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhumane treatment. Instead, you must experience physical or mental anguish as a result of their behavior. As a result, if your spouse was emotionally or verbally abusive to you, either as a result of substance abuse or for some other reason, you could use that as grounds for your divorce.

If you do not wish to file for divorce on one of the grounds listed earlier, you can instead file for divorce by simply stating that there was an "irretrievable breakdown" in your marriage.

Tips for Divorcing an Addict

If you are divorcing an addict, you may want to take the following advice into account:

  • Document evidence of their substance use and/or abuse. Having evidence to show the court will not only lend credibility to your case, but could also impact the outcome of your divorce. For example, if you share children with your spouse, the court may be more likely to give you sole custody if you have evidence of your spouse's substance abuse on the premise that they're not a fit caregiver for your children. Photographs of drugs and paraphernalia, of substance use, and of texts or emails pertaining to the substance abuse can all be valid forms of evidence. However, you should consult your lawyer before gathering evidence to ensure you don't break any laws doing so.
  • Collect evidence of the financial impact of your spouse's substance abuse. Evidence of your spouse squandering marital assets or income on illicit substances could help you obtain a better result in your property division case.
  • Consider bringing forth witnesses. If you have witnesses who are willing to testify about your spouse's drug use, it could be a powerful tool for your divorce.
  • Consider your legal strategy. No two divorces from addicts look the same. If your spouse is an abusive addict, you may need to form an exit strategy for yourself and any children you have immediately to stay safe. Alternatively, if you're on good terms with your spouse and want to help them process their addiction after finalizing the divorce, you may want to consult your lawyer on how you can achieve that objective. Coming up with a legal strategy that reflects your desired outcome is vital if you want to get the best results.

At Letterio & Haug, our team is here to help protect your rights and future throughout and after your divorce. To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (845) 203-0997.

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