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Dealing with Divorce and Addiction

Posted by Elise Buie | Jan 30, 2019 | 0 Comments

The divorce process is already painful enough, having a spouse that is addicted to drugs or alcohol adds a whole new layer of challenges on top of this already tough situation. Your spouse's addiction may be something you've been dealing with for years, or it may have been the main reason behind your split. Either way, divorcing your spouse while they are battling an addiction can be a very stressful process. As the person who knows them best, you may end up dealing with much of their harmful behavior, this can easily be the breaking point that leads to a divorce. To make this process as painless as possible, you need to know what to expect when the split does happen.

Being a no-fault divorce state, you cannot cite a specific reason for your divorce such as adultery or an addiction in Washington. In legal terms, the divorce will not be caused by your spouse's addiction and it won't be listed as an official factor when coming to legal terms. That being said, their addiction will almost certainly play a role in your divorce in other ways. People suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol often act in a way that can make them hard to deal with, unstable, and even dangerous to themselves or others and these are factors that will be taken into consideration in the divorce proceedings. If their addiction can be proven to be real by a history of time spent in rehab, police records, or failed drug tests, the court will be much less likely to grant them the same privileges they would be if this were not the case. Hiring an experienced attorney who can help guide you through this process will be an important step in this process.

Impact on Custody of Your Children

If you and your spouse have kids, additional steps will be taken by the court to ensure that you are both competent, capable, and responsible enough to take care of your children. This procedure will only be intensified if there are allegations of alcoholism or other addiction in the mix. The judge will weigh all relevant factors, addiction included, and make a determination regarding what type of custody arrangements best suit you and your family, keeping the best interests of your children as the main deciding factor. Your spouse's addiction will certainly be considered when considering whether or not they are capable of safely and healthily participating in parenting your children. If split custody and overnight visitation are off the table as viable due to their addiction, the court will likely offer other solutions to allow your child to see both parents, even if not for extended periods or alone. This could come in the form of supervised visitation, or subjection to random drug and alcohol screenings in order to maintain visitation privileges. Other options include completion of a rehabilitation program and then subsequent testing to ensure their sobriety when spending time with your child. These things will be carefully contemplated by the court and will depend upon the nature and severity of your spouse's addiction. In a worst-case scenario, parental rights can be eliminated completely, though only in the most extreme of cases of in situations where a parent has a history of acting in a way that is harmful to your children.

Other Factors to Consider

Property division and spousal support are also things that can be affected by divorcing an addict. Typically, Washington courts try to divide assets equally between a divorcing couple. This becomes more complicated if one spouse has either squandered large, unexplainable sums of money during the marriage or has used these shares assets to further perpetuate and fund their addiction. In this case, they would likely be financially penalized for acting this way. Another unfortunate but common occurrence is mental health playing a factor in the divorce proceedings. If your spouse is experiencing a mental health issue and this is a cause of their addiction, money may have to be allocated to help with treatment of their condition after the divorce. This is, in general, a challenging and trying time in a person's life and the best way to mitigate these stressful times is to hire an experienced attorney who can help you navigate through this process.

About the Author

Elise Buie

Passionate, creative, problem-solving attorney who crafts solutions rather than obstacles. Elise spends significant time educating her clients on healthy communication skills. Elise also ensures that her clients make informed decisions by understanding the future emotional and financial implications of their decisions. Your family's future is our first priority. Elise teaches her clients new skills to empower them in the future as they adjust to the new family structure. While divorce ends a marriage, it is the beginning of your new, often times, more authentic life. Elise will help you begin that new life with new skills to handle any future challenges.


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Elise Buie Family Law Group PLLC
1001 Fourth Avenue, 44th Floor   Seattle, WA 98154