Addiction, Divorce, and Child Custody

  1. Child Custody
  2. Addiction, Divorce, and Child Custody
Addiction, Divorce, and Child Custody

Addiction to drugs or alcohol are serious, lifelong struggles that can consume a person’s entire being unless they can find a path to recovery. Unfortunately, addicts do not struggle in a vacuum and it is their families and children who often suffer from the lies, poor choices, unreliability, wastefulness, and misconduct that come with a dependence on substances. As a result, there are correlations between addiction issues, divorce, and child custody cases.

Divorce from Bed and Board

Contrary to its literal title, a “divorce from bed and board” is not a divorce, but a court-ordered separation. It is an involuntary order sought against a spouse who is harming the other spouse and will not agree to a separation. This includes a spouse who “[b]ecomes an excessive user of alcohol or drugs” and makes the life of the other spouse “burdensome” and “intolerable”. If a court determines that these conditions exist, it can grant temporary orders about who can live in the family home, spousal support, child support, and child custody.

Absolute Divorce Does Not Consider Addiction

When it comes to obtaining an actual decree of divorce, a spouse’s addiction plays no role in the court’s decision. North Carolina is a no-fault state and allows a court to grant a divorce solely on evidence that the couple has lived separate and apart for a full year.

Likewise, for the issue of property division, the issue of addiction is generally irrelevant to how a court divides marital property unless it is demonstrated that the spouse with the addiction is paying for their substances using marital property after the date of separation. In such a case, the court may issue injunctive relief against that spouse and make an unequal distribution of property.

Child Custody

Determinations of child custody and visitation are decided based on a child’s best interest. This is a broad and open concept that focuses on the needs of a child, not on that of a parent. While the law presumes that children are best served with ample contact with each parent, this presumption can be overcome based on sufficient evidence that this contact is inappropriate. So if a parent has demonstrated that they are unsafe or unsuitable due to issues of substance abuse, then a court has the discretion to limit contact between parent and child. This may include supervised visitation, drug testing, or alcohol monitoring. In extreme cases, a court may restrict contact altogether.

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