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The Role of Addiction in Divorce


When an addicted spouse fails or refuses to seek treatment for an addiction, such as an alcohol, drug, sex, or gambling addiction, a divorce sometimes becomes inevitable.  Unfortunately, after struggling as a family unit, the divorce is often a struggle as well.  Our Grand Rapids divorce attorneys outlined some of the difficulties.

Addiction Can Lead to a Sudden Divorce 

Some parents end up divorcing the addicted spouse unexpectedly. Their spouse’s addiction affected the children’s safety, and regardless of the parent’s compassion for their spouse’s problem, they must separate and divorce to keep the children safe. 

Because addiction has affected most aspects of the family members’ lives, a spouse often assumes that the addiction will not be disputed.  Sometimes the addicted parent will minimize or deny the addiction.  When this happens, the dispute may prevent a settlement of the case and increase the overall cost of the litigation.  A divorce attorney may be able to request drug testing, request a forensic review of computers or phones, or obtain copies of bank or credit card records to review the addicted spouse’s behaviors; however, if a spouse had scheduled a pre-planning session with an attorney, the spouse could have potentially gathered relevant records before separation. Obtaining proof informally, and before separation, can often save significant money and time.

Can a Family Lawyer Help Make Sure the Addicted Spouse Receives Treatment? 

Sometimes a divorce or custody filing is the necessary incentive for a spouse to face his or her addiction and seek treatment.  After years of broken promises, a spouse may not believe that the addicted ex-spouse will continue on the path of recovery.  Even so, the Grand Rapids family law attorneys at Kraayeveld Law can help with a custom order to put safeguards in place, such as required counseling, alcohol testing devices, and such. 

Will My Spouse Still Be Required to Pay Child and Spousal Support While Suffering from Addiction? 

When a spouse suffers from a substantial addiction, he or she may become unemployed.  Even so, the court will likely still order child support and sometimes spousal support, based on the addicted parent’s ability to earn an income.  However, an order for support does not equal actually receiving child or spousal support.  There can be a delay in collecting these funds.  Meanwhile, a parent and the children may end up in a financial bind.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Can Lead to Diminishing Assets

Many addictions cost money. The financial cost of alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex can be staggering. The person suffering from an addiction tends to hide his or her use of the family’s assets, and when even the retirement fund has been depleted, there is little recourse.  A Grand Rapids divorce attorney can assist with creating an audit trail of which assets a spouse used to fund the addiction, but once an asset is gone, it is difficult or sometimes impossible to recover it.  For this reason, a spouse married to someone suffering from an addiction will benefit from scheduling a consultation with a divorce law firm to determine which assets could be at risk for permanent loss. 

If your spouse struggles with an addiction, call our office at 616-285-0808 to schedule a planning session with one of our Grand Rapids family law attorneys.