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Florida Women's Law Group

The Effects Of Substance Abuse On A Marriage And Divorce

Author: Florida Women's Law Group
Date: Aug 20 2021

How Substance Abuse Effects a Marriage and Divorce

Marriage is full of peaks and valleys.  Anyone who has been married for a long time will tell you that there were good times and bad times throughout.  For a marriage to survive both spouses must contribute and work at the relationship, a one-sided marriage rarely lasts.  If one spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol it throws the entire family into chaos and is difficult to sustain long-term.

When one spouse is a substance abuser it puts a lot of pressure on the other spouse to maintain a sense of normalcy while supporting the addicted spouse, children and the house.  The addiction may come as a surprise to you, addicts are very good at hiding their use and it can happen to anyone.  An accident that led to pain pills or drinks with friends after work gradually turns into drinking every day, it can happen without you realizing.  Once the addiction has taken over, the spouse you married is replaced with someone you do not even recognize.

The Effects of Substance Abuse on a Marriage

When addiction takes over one spouse it creates a dysfunctional marriage and home environment.  Substance abuse often leads to emotional and physical abuse.  Over 75% of domestic violence abuse is related to the use of drugs and/or alcohol.  Someone that has always been mild-tempered can turn violent when caught in the throes of addiction. 

Ways that substance abuse can affect a marriage:

  • Broken Trust – addicts will lie about where they have been, what they are doing, who they are with and why their behavior has changed.

  • Increased Tension and Arguing – The addict’s behavior and dishonesty causes conflict within the marriage which leads to a volatile home life. Couples will argue more and resentment builds.

  • Financial Problems – A substance abuser with full-blown addiction only cares about feeding their habit. They will empty bank accounts, sell things in the home, and steal to get the money for their next fix.  They likely have trouble holding onto a job which puts more stress on the sober spouse to keep things running with limited funds.

  • Physical and Emotional Abuse – Alcohol and drugs limits a person’s inhibitions and rational thinking. A spouse that is under the influence is much more likely to lose control and become abusive towards their spouse and children.  Most domestic violence cases involve substance abuse.

  • Legal Trouble – Substance abusers are likely to encounter legal trouble. Drinking and driving, disorderly conduct, theft, possession and others.  This can lead to hefty legal bills or even incarceration.

  • Creates Unstable Home for Children – Children of substance abusers can suffer the effects into adulthood. The addict may have drug paraphernalia left out, unsavory people visiting the home, driving under the influence with the kids in the car or putting kids in danger with their actions while high or drunk.

Substance abuse doesn’t just affect the abuser but everyone in the family.  It creates chaos and turmoil with the entire household centered on the abuser.

Divorcing a Substance Abuser

Florida is a no-fault state which means that there does not need to be a reason for the divorce, it can be irreconcilable differences.  The stress and turmoil caused by a spouse that is a substance abuser can lead to a divorce.  Here is how your spouse’s substance abuse can impact your divorce case:

  • Child Custody – The biggest impact of substance abuse is in child custody. Florida family judges always strive for both parents to take active roles in children’s lives.  However, if one has a demonstrated substance abuse problem their time with the children can be limited or non-existent.  The sober parent is more likely to be the primary custodian with the other getting visitations.  Judges may order that the abusing parent get regular drug and alcohol tests to have time with the children.  They may be able to get supervised visitation with a third-party present and no overnight visits.

  • Marital Property and Assets – Florida is an equitable distribution state which means that property and assets are divided fairly among both spouses. However, if one spouse is a substance abuser and used marital funds to finance their habit than the sober spouse can be awarded a larger share of the marital assets as payback.

  • Alimony – Alimony payments are viewed in a similar way as marital property and assets if one spouse is a substance abuser. If a judge deems that marital money was used to fund the abuser’s habit than the sober spouse is likely to get more alimony to compensate for the amount used by the abuser.  An abuser can also have their alimony reduced if a judge feels that they will use the money on drugs or alcohol.

Unfortunately, substance abuse can tear a family apart.  If you are married to someone with a substance abuse issue, divorce may be the best way for you to regain control and normalcy in your life and the lives of your children.  At Florida Women’s Law Group, we are here to represent women just like you to help you get through this and onto a better and happier life.

 

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