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Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse

Divorce is never easy – regardless of its cause. If your spouse has a significant substance abuse problem, you may face some special issues when going through the divorce process. If you have children, for example, the other parent’s abuse of alcohol or drugs can raise difficult custody and parenting time issues (such as supervised visitation, drug and alcohol testing and psychological evaluations). Your spouse’s abuse of drugs and/or alcohol can also have an impact on support issues and property distribution issues. Someone suffering from addiction may have a problem holding down a job, which can complicate determining spousal support and child support. Further, someone who is abusing drugs or alcohol may have dissipated significant amounts of marital property to support his or her addiction.

Chicago Child Custody Lawyer

One of the most important first steps you can take if this is the difficult situation you find yourself in is consulting with a skilled Chicago divorce attorney who has considerable experience guiding these complicated cases toward favorable resolutions.

Substance Abuse Raises Special Challenges

Occasional drinking and, now that marijuana is legal in Illinois, using marijuana on occasion is not necessarily a substance abuse problem that will impact the divorce process. The frequent and persistent use of alcohol and/or marijuana, however, can have an impact on a divorce proceeding in a number of ways. The use of illegal drugs by your spouse raises more problems, particularly if you have children. Some of the important questions raised by your spouse using legal and illegal drugs are as follows:

  • Does your spouse get frequently intoxicated? If so, is your spouse getting intoxicated in front of your children?
  • Does your spouse get violent when drinking alcohol or using other drugs? Does your spouse engage in dangerous activity when intoxicated?
  • Does your spouse operate a motor vehicle when intoxicated? Does your spouse drive with the children in the vehicle when intoxicated?
  • Does your spouse keep illegal drugs at your home? Does your spouse use illegal drugs in front of the children?
  • Has your spouse’s use of drugs or alcohol had a negative impact on his or her ability to work or hold a job?
  • How does your spouse pay for the drugs or alcohol he or she uses?

These are only some of the important issues that can be raised in a divorce case, if your spouse is abusing drugs or alcohol.

 Parenting Time and Custody Issues

A court will base its decisions regarding child custody and parenting time on the child’s best interests. A parent’s abuse of alcohol or drugs can have a significant impact on their ability to have parenting time or decision-making rights. A parent that abuses alcohol and/or drugs can threaten a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing. This can result in limitations on that parent’s ability to spend time with the children or even trigger the need for supervised parenting time. A court can also order a parent with a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse to get regular drug and alcohol tests as a precondition to having any parenting time, prohibit such a parent from driving the children, or from having overnight parenting time. The protections a court will consider largely depends on the severity of the substance abuse problem and the type of drugs used. It is important to know that a court can take different actions to protect you and your children from a spouse that is abusing drugs or alcohol.

Support Issues

Many people with substance abuse problems are able to hold their jobs and pursue their careers.  Sometimes, however, the abuse of alcohol or drugs can have significant adverse impacts on a person’s job and employability. A spouse who loses his or her job due to a substance abuse problem still has obligations to support his or her children and possibly the other spouse. Further, a substance abuse problem may reduce the spouse’s current income or earning potential.

When a substance abuse problem adversely affects a spouse’s employment or income, calculating child support or maintenance can become difficult. This can raise complex issues depending on the nature of the spouse’s job or profession and the severity of the substance abuse problem. It is important to develop the necessary facts and a strategy to deal with these issues. 

The Division of Marital Property

Illinois has adopted the concept of marital property. Marital property can include income earned during the marriage and property acquired during the marriage. A spouse can hold marital property, even if the funds or property are held in accounts that are solely in the name of that spouse. 

Related to the concept of marital property is the concept of dissipation of marital property. Dissipation can occur when a spouse uses marital funds or property for a non-marital purpose. Using marital funds or property to support a substance abuse problem can constitute dissipation. If dissipation occurs, the spouse responsible for the dissipation may have to reimburse the marital estate for the amount dissipated. Calculating the amount of dissipation can be a complex undertaking. If a spouse has a severe substance abuse problem, however, the amount dissipated could be significant. 

An Experienced Chicago Divorce Attorney Can Help

When it comes to how substance abuse can impact a divorce proceeding in Illinois, the laws are complicated, and you need the skilled legal guidance of an accomplished divorce attorney on your side. At The Law Offices of George M. Sanders in Chicago, we take great pride in helping clients like you obtain divorce terms that protect both their parental and financial rights. Please feel free to contact us for more information today.

Contact Our Illinois Divorce & Custody Law Firm Today

You will find our attorneys to be flexible, responsive, and ready to begin providing exceptional representation to protect your rights and your best interests immediately. Call our law office now at 312-624-7645 to schedule a consultation about your family law needs at no initial charge.


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