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Dealing With Substance Abuse in a Divorce

There are many reasons that a marriage doesn’t work out. When one of the spouses has a substance abuse problem, this can often be the primary reason for the other spouse to seek a divorce. There are some typical issues that come up in these cases that it is important to understand if this is your situation.

Substance Abuse is Not Grounds for Divorce in Maryland

Under Maryland law, substance abuse alone is not grounds for divorce. If a spouse is seeking a divorce for cause instead of a no-fault divorce, then it would have to be on the basis of some behavior by the other spouse, which the law defines as “adultery, desertion, imprisonment for a crime, insanity, cruelty of treatment, and excessively vicious conduct.” Unfortunately, these sorts of acts can often be part of the life of an addict. If seeking a divorce on one of these grounds, it’s important to make sure there is a record of the situation showing that the spouse has a problem with substance abuse, and their behavior falls into one of the criteria for divorce. 

Assets and Alimony When One Spouse is an Addict

Maryland courts usually look at the division of assets as a neutral issue, and they don’t award more assets to one spouse over the other based on their behavior. One exception to this rule is if the addict squandered the marital assets due to their addiction. The other spouse may be awarded more of the remaining assets to compensate for this. This would also require strong proof, so keeping track of financial records regarding all assets is critical. On the other hand, if the spouse with the substance abuse issue is unable to work, they may be entitled to spousal support from the other spouse. 

Custody and Visitation Challenges

Temporary and permanent custodial arrangements ordered by Maryland Court strongly favor a continuing relationship between children and both parents. When one parent has substance abuse problems, it can be difficult for the other parent to feel comfortable or safe sharing custody. The courts have seen these sorts of situations before, and there are a number of creative solutions that can increase or decrease contact depending on the severity of the parent’s problem. For instance, a parent may be awarded varying amounts of supervised visitation – which could be with a family member or a neutral childcare expert, at home or a neutral location. Visitation can be contingent on passing regular drug tests and a parent might need to show proof of participating in some form of treatment program. 

When substance abuse is part of a marriage, the situation is often quite volatile for everyone involved. Taking steps to protect yourself and your children should include conferring with a family law attorney about gathering information and laying the groundwork for removing yourself from this situation. 

Malech Law is located in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. For more than 25 years, Mr. Malech has provided aggressive and effective representation for his clients in Maryland and the District of Columbia. This year, he was selected as the Best of Bethesda 2022 Readers’ Pick for Best Family Law Practitioner. He has also been given the Lawyers of Distinction Award Recognizing Excellence in the Area of Divorce and Family Law for the past three consecutive years and has just been recognized as a Family Law Top 10 Attorney for 2021 by “Attorney and Practice Magazine.”

Visit Malechlaw.com or call (202) 441-2107.

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