• calendar31st Mar 24 1:51 pm
  • userJamie

Addressing Addiction: Substance Abuse Treatment And Its Impact On Divorce

Finding the strength to leave a marriage is difficult, and the presence of substance abuse issues can further complicate the process. Addressing addiction is never easy, and divorcing spouses often find themselves dealing with both mental health issues and legal complexities as they seek to end a marriage that involves substance abuse. Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to help spouses understand the substance abuse treatment’s impact on divorce. Connect with us at (720) 593-6442 to learn more.

What Is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse refers to the misuse of or dependence on alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications. If an individual progresses in this misuse or dependence, there is often an increased need for substance abuse treatment and intervention. 

While individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders may sometimes be charged with a variety of violations for activities related to their substance use, in general the State of Colorado primarily sees addiction as a health issue and not a criminal matter. The Colorado Department of Human Services states that substance abuse disorder is a “chronic relapsing brain disease” that may prevent patients from meeting responsibilities at work, school, or home. 

How Does Substance Abuse Impact Divorce?

Substance abuse can have a negative effect on all aspects of marital life, including income, parenting, and intimacy. These issues can break down the marriage substantially, leading to divorce. A Colorado divorce can be a complicated process for any family, and substance abuse may further complicate matters related to custody, property distribution, and spousal maintenance. 

How Does Substance Abuse Impact Custody?

Colorado family courts may consider any evidence of substance abuse among parents when making decisions regarding child custody. If only one parent suffers from a substance abuse disorder, the parent who does not struggle with substance abuse may have an advantage when it comes to convincing the court of their fitness as a parent. Supervised visits with the addicted parent may be ordered by the court to ensure the safety of the child. Alongside or as an alternative to a requirement for supervision during parental visits, the noncustodial parent may be required to submit to regular drug and alcohol screenings to maintain their parenting rights.

How Does Substance Abuse Impact Property Distribution?

According to Title 14 of the Revised Statutes, Colorado is an equitable distribution state – and judges will strive for equitable outcomes by considering various factors during the property division process. These factors may include the duration of the marriage, the financial circumstances of each spouse, and the contributions each spouse made to the marriage. 

How Does Substance Abuse Impact Alimony?

A family law judge will also carefully consider various factors when determining alimony payments. Colorado judges are explicitly prohibited, under § 14-10-110 Co. Rev. Stat. (2020) from considering marital misconduct in making their determinations regarding the distribution of marital property. They are explicitly required, however, to consider each spouse’s current and potential income, and their respective needs––including any “significant health care needs” or expenses related to health care that may not be covered by health insurance, in determining the amount of spousal maintenance and the duration of the maintenance period. 

When addressing addiction concerns, Colorado judges have significant latitude to make provision for the economic support of substance abuse treatment as part of the division of property and court-ordered spousal maintenance established in the divorce decree. Depending on the nature and severity of the substance abuse disorder, a variety of treatment options and interventions may be helpful. The Colorado Behavioral Health Administration provides a variety of resources for adults seeking, and in some cases those resisting, substance abuse disorder treatment.

Is Substance Abuse an Acceptable Reason for Divorce?

Colorado is a “no-fault” state for divorce. This means that a spouse can end their marriage due to irreconcilable differences without providing specific “grounds” for divorce. Furthermore, a no-fault divorce is the only option for spouses in Colorado. Because substance abuse will play no role in the legal procedures involved in petitioning for, or receiving, a decree for the dissolution of marriage, the often painful question of whether addiction is an acceptable reason to end a marriage will ultimately have to be answered by each spouse contemplating divorce from a spouse struggling with addiction.  

How Do I Go Through a Divorce Gracefully With an Addicted Spouse?

Divorcing gracefully is a priority for many people, but achieving a truly amicable split can be even more difficult when one spouse is struggling with a substance abuse disorder. An addicted spouse may not be cooperative, and they may cause all kinds of delays due to their substance abuse disorder, as well as any of the mental health conditions that often appear as comorbidities alongside substance abuse. A skilled divorce attorney with Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to assist by facilitating open communication and negotiating with addicted spouses. Several strategies could prove effective in this scenario:

  • Identifying solutions for co-parenting: Meaningful parenting time for both parties is often viable, especially if one spouse agrees to complete substance abuse treatment and regain control of their health. According to Family Lives, contact with both parents is important for child mental health after divorce. 
  • Strategically managing assets and property: When addressing addiction in divorce, it is important to protect assets. Closely monitor joint accounts, as addicted spouses may attempt to fund their substance abuse issues with marital property. With various injunctions and court orders, it is possible to freeze these assets and prevent losses.
  • Prioritizing cooperation, communication, and mediation. When possible, we help our clients keep their divorces out of the courtroom through mediation. Divorce mediation in Colorado helps divorcing couples reach coordinated decisions with a minimum of conflict, maintaining peace and harmony among both spouses and children. Mediation also keeps certain details private, such as the extent of a potentially embarrassing addiction. 

How To Deal With a Messy Divorce Caused by Addiction

While Colorado courts may not consider marital misconduct in determining the distribution of marital property, they are bound to consider the best interests of the child in determining the allocation of parental responsibilities. One of the messiest aspects of a divorce precipitated by substance abuse is often the child custody determination, and its accompanying court order regarding parenting time. 

Spouses who are concerned their children may not be safe while staying with the coparent might consider a range of potential evidence. For example, a petitioning spouse might photograph drugs left strewn around the home – potentially within reach of children. They might also request relevant medical records during the pre-trial discovery phase of a litigated divorce, documenting chemical tests and other medical encounters that clearly establish a pattern of abusing controlled substances. Evidence of DUI convictions, if applicable, may also illustrate the extent of the issue.

How Can the Colorado Divorce Law Group Help With Addressing Addiction and Its Impact on Divorce?

If substance abuse has contributed to the breakdown of a marriage, there are helpful resources available. At the Colorado Divorce Law Group, we strive to understand the details of each situation and identify targeted strategies. Addressing addiction is never easy, especially when marriage and children are involved. To learn more about substance abuse treatment and its impact on divorce, as well as how we can guide families through this challenging process, consider scheduling a free consultation by calling (720) 593-6442 today.