How Does Substance Abuse Affect Divorce Proceedings?

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Addiction is an unkind disease. The use of drugs and alcohol can negatively affect a marriage and family in many ways. When one spouse’s actions get out of control, divorce may be the only option. If you are getting divorced because of substance abuse, contact a Bohemia, NY divorce attorney for information about your rights and skilled legal representation.

Is New York a Fault State?

States may be no-fault or at-fault states regarding divorce. A no-fault divorce state means there is no need to prove why the marriage is ending, the only requirement is that one spouse testifies that the marriage has been irretrievably broken.

You may file for an at-fault divorce if the marriage is ending due to the actions of one spouse. Common reasons a spouse may file for fault-based divorce include adultery, abandonment, imprisonment, and cruelty, which includes both emotional and physical pain. Substance abuse falls under this category.

New York is a mixed state, meaning that spouses can choose between a no-fault or an at-fault divorce depending on the circumstances of their relationship.

How Can Substance Abuse Cause a Divorce?

The abuse of drugs and alcohol can detrimentally impact a user’s mental and physical well-being, as well as the well-being of their family. Addiction is a disease that causes people to behave in ways they otherwise would not if they were sober and did not have a dependency on drugs or alcohol. Addiction can put a strain on a family, causing financial hardship, verbal or emotional abuse, violence or physical abuse, emotional distress, and more.

It can be a difficult decision to make, but if one spouse’s substance dependency negatively affects the marriage and home life, the other spouse may decide to file for divorce.

In What Areas Is Substance Abuse Considered?

There are many decisions to be made when a couple is getting divorced. Litigation intends to make the most fair and equitable decision for each spouse, especially serving the children’s best interest, if any are involved. Some areas where a spouse’s substance abuse may have an impact include the following.

Child custody

  • Child custody and visitation decisions are always made while keeping the child’s best interests in mind. Being in an unstable environment surrounded by drugs and alcohol can be detrimental to a child’s development and safety. Depending on the severity of the spouse’s addiction, a court may determine that they are unfit to have custody of the child. They may be awarded partial custody or only visitation rights, and their visitations may be supervised.

Division of property

  • New York is an equitable distribution state, meaning that assets are split in a way that is fair, not necessarily equal. If the using spouse wasted significant amounts of money on their addiction or engaged in other reckless behavior that impacted finances or property a court may award the other spouse more property.


  • A court may award a spouse more alimony if the addicted spouse’s actions affected their savings, employment, or earning capacity. The increased alimony will be an attempt to counteract those actions or reimburse the other spouse.

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