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Sober up or risk losing your children: Substance abuse and divorce in Texas

Money fights. Infidelity. These are two of the more common reasons why people get divorced in our country.

There are violations of trust inherent in each of these reasons for divorce that once they are exposed tend to eat away at the marital relationship. What you are left with is a shell of a marriage that collapses under its own weight. From my experience as a family law attorney I can tell you that these are the cause, in my opinion, of most the divorces that the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles on behalf of clients.

Another unfortunate reason for divorce that in many ways is linked to the issues we discussed in our prior paragraph, is substance abuse. Spouses that are addicted to drugs or alcohol will see these substances eat away at their bodies as well as their marriages. Some spouses are willing to try and get help and some are not. Many do not identify their substance abuse as a real problem until it is too late.

The effect of substance abuse on divorce is very real. Today’s blog post from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC will discuss this topic in greater detail. When children are involved in a divorce the effect can be extreme. However, let’s start by discussing how substance abuse can affect your divorce settlement if you and your spouse do not have children.

Substance abuse for spouses without children

If your spouse is addicted to drugs and alcohol and you file for divorce you are likely to find that their substance abuse problems will not impact your case all that much. There are exceptions to this general rule. For example, if your spouse treated you poorly due to their addiction then you may have an opportunity to cite cruelty as a fault grounds for divorce. This would allow you to potentially receive more in a settlement or in a trial when it comes to your community property division.

Another way for substance abuse to have an impact on your divorce as a childless couple is that your spouse could have been spending large sums of your community income on their addictions. It can be argued that this is wasting of community assets.

A judge would look at all of the circumstances of your case before making a determination one way or another. There is no guarantee that either of these situations would lead to the hypothetical results that I just laid out, either. The point I am trying to make is that while substance abuse could have been the leading cause of your divorce, that does not mean that you have the upper hand or an advantage in divorce negotiations with your spouse.

Substance abuse for spouses with children

On the other hand, if you and your spouse have children and are getting a divorce, substance abuse will likely play a much larger role in your divorce. The safety and well being of your children will be the foremost concern of a judge in your divorce case. Your judge will see to it that your children are protected from a parent that abuses drugs or alcohol.

For instance, if your spouse is addicted to drugs their visitation rights with your child will almost certainly be limited. A possession schedule that is minimal at first can be built up to be more substantial in the event that your spouse regains a level of sobriety.

Many parents are forced by their behaviors and addictions into having supervised visitation with their children. This means that all visitation between your children and your spouse will be supervised by a court-approved supervisor or by a person that you and your spouse mutually agree to. It can feel very unnatural for someone to watch your behaviors with your children, but the fact is that a person with an addiction cannot always be trusted to make good decisions for themselves or their children.

Most court orders bar a parent from consuming alcohol within eight hours of their beginning a period of possession with their children. Additional requirements in order to allow a parent with a substance abuse problem to be able to visit their children at all are regular drug/alcohol testing and substance abuse counseling such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Following this initial period where supervised possession is only had on an occasional basis, your spouse may be able to have more supervised possession times added to their schedule. Continued sobriety, attendance in counseling sessions and negative drug/alcohol screenings are a must to allow an expansion of their visitation schedule with your children.

Finally, if your spouse has shown themselves to be committed to a life of sobriety then their visitation with your children will likely become unsupervised over the course of a few months. It could be that this all comes into being during your divorce. If your spouse relapses or your divorce concludes prior to this time, unsupervised visitation could begin after your divorce is already complete.

What effect will marijuana have on your divorce?

As more and more states decriminalize marijuana you may have been led to believe that using marijuana is not like using another drug. After all- if it’s legal, how bad can it be?

Keep in mind that using or growing marijuana is not legal in Texas. If you are drug tested it possible that the drug test can find trace amounts of marijuana in your system from up to three months ago. If you test positive your visitation rights with your child will be limited by a court. Anticipate that you will be tested for drugs for the foreseeable future until you can show that you are no longer using any substances.

Protecting your children from a spouse that abuses drugs or alcohol

The most common way that allegations of substance abuse are substantiated is by taking photos of items like bottles of alcohol or drug paraphernalia. Sometimes a photo is taken by the substance abuser, posted to a social media website and then the rest is history. Attorneys are quite adept at searching social media websites in order to expose an opposing party’s mistakes.

If you have receipts or credit card statements that show an excessive amount of alcohol being purchased you ought to keep these handy as well. The fact is that if your spouse leaves the home he or she may take with them any evidence of their substance abuse. You would be well served to get access to these items while they are in your home.

Another method to document drug or alcohol abuse is to make a report to Child Protective Services (CPS). If your spouse’s substance abuse is putting your children in danger then you absolutely need to contact CPS. CPS is required to investigate all allegations of abuse or neglect of a child that they receive. Your spouse will be contacted and an investigation will start. The people who make reports to CPS are kept confidential.

Finally, if your divorce case has already begun you can ask your attorney to file a motion for emergency orders or temporary orders to have these issues sorted out.

The filing of this type of motion will allow a court to understand that your situation is not a typical one where a standard possession order is appropriate for your spouse. If there are immediate concerns that need to be addressed by a court then this is a means by which you can have a court assess what if anything needs to be done.

Questions about substance abuse and divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you are in a marriage where your spouse is abusing drugs or alcohol you need to take the steps necessary to protect yourself and your children. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC to learn more about divorce and how substance abuse plays a role in this process.

Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week where we can answer your questions and discuss the services that we can provide to you and your family as clients of ours.

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