Divorcing an Addict in California


Getting divorced can be emotionally and financially stressful, especially if either party has an addiction. In this blog, we will discuss the impact addiction can have on a divorce as well as the way different types of addiction can affect your case.  

How Addictions Can Affect Divorce  

If your partner has an addiction, it may impact certain determinations in the divorce. Here are some of the ways addiction can generally affect aspects of your divorce:  

  • Child custody. The courts will consider the best interest of the child when determining custody. While having an addiction does not automatically negate your custodial or visitation rights, it is a factor the court will consider. The specific impact of addiction on custody can vary based on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) whether a parent still struggles with the addiction (based on evidence) and whether the addiction poses a physical or emotional safety risk to the child. If you have an addiction, you can submit evidence to the court to prove you are seeking treatment or help; you may also be asked to submit to drug or alcohol testing before visitation or custodial times.  

  • Asset division. Wasteful dissipation of assets refers to the reckless spending or squandering of marital assets, often through unnecessary expenditures, poor investment decisions, gambling, or substance abuse, among other things. The court will factor in whether a spouse wastefully dissipated assets when making their judgment. The extent of the dissipation, the non-addict spouse's knowledge and/or complicity in the addiction, and the ongoing impact of the addiction are all factors that can influence this division. For example, if a spouse spent a large portion of the marital savings on their addiction without the other spouse's knowledge, the court may award the non-addict spouse a larger share of the remaining assets to compensate for this loss. However, if both spouses were aware of and contributed to the addictive behavior, the court may see this as a joint responsibility, leading to a more equal division of assets. 

  • Spousal support/alimony. If a spouse's substance abuse or alcoholism has affected their ability to maintain employment or manage finances, this could potentially affect their ability to pay spousal support. Similarly, if the addicted spouse is the one seeking support, their addiction may be considered in assessing their need for such support. 

Types of Addiction & Their Effect on a Divorce  

There are different types of addiction, and each one can have an impact on the divorce process in California. Below, we discuss how different types of addiction may affect your divorce case.  

Physical vs. Behavioral Addiction | Addiction & Domestic Violence 

Physical addiction involves a physiological dependency on a substance, such as drugs or alcohol. The body craves the substance, and withdrawal symptoms occur when it's not available. On the other hand, behavioral addiction refers to compulsive behaviors that an individual continues to do despite negative consequences, like gambling, overeating, or excessive use of social media. 

Both behavioral and physical addictions can have an impact on your case. For instance, someone with a gambling addiction may have used marital assets to fund their betting habits, which can impact asset division. Similarly, someone with a dependency on drugs or alcohol might do the same.  

Behavioral and physical addictions can also affect a person’s mental health; these addictions alter the brain's function and structure, leading to changes in the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves.  

Substance abuse, specifically, can result in a range of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, among others. These disorders can further escalate, distorting a person's judgment and impairing their ability to think rationally or control their impulses. Unfortunately, this inability to regulate behavior can manifest in aggressive or violent actions toward others, particularly those close to them. 

Research indicates a strong correlation between addiction and domestic violence. Drugs and alcohol can lower inhibitions, making an individual more likely to act out violently. Moreover, the stress of managing an addiction can create tension within a household, potentially leading to aggression and violence. Gambling addiction, on the other hand, can lead to financial troubles, creating further stress and potential triggers for violent behavior.  

In the context of divorce proceedings, domestic violence can significantly impact the process and its outcomes. For instance, allegations of domestic violence may influence the division of assets, child custody arrangements, and spousal maintenance (alimony) determinations.  

Courts generally prioritize the safety and well-being of victims and children, so if a spouse has been abusive, they may be less likely to receive custody or unsupervised visitation rights. In some instances, the victim of domestic violence may also be awarded a larger portion of marital assets or increased alimony to help establish a safe and stable life post-divorce. 

Functional vs. Dysfunctional Addicts  

Functional addiction refers to a situation where an individual is battling an addiction but still able to maintain their daily responsibilities. This includes being able to hold down a job, maintain relationships, and meet societal expectations despite their substance use.  

It's important to note that this doesn't mean the addiction is not harmful or dangerous. It simply means that the individual is able to conceal the negative effects of their addiction more effectively. 

Dysfunctional addiction, on the other hand, is when an individual's substance use interferes with their ability to function in daily life. They may struggle to maintain employment, relationships, and other responsibilities due to their addiction. The negative impacts of their substance use are more visible and severe in this case.  

Dysfunctional addicts may face more challenges during the divorce process. Their inability to maintain responsibilities can directly impact the divorce proceedings, especially when it comes to financial responsibilities and custody arrangements.  

If an individual cannot maintain a job due to their addiction, they may struggle to provide financial support. Furthermore, if they cannot provide a stable environment for children due to their addiction, this could influence custody decisions. 

Regardless of whether an addict is functional or dysfunctional, it's crucial to consider the potential ramifications for any children involved. Children can be deeply affected by a parent's addiction, leading to emotional and psychological distress. In some cases, children may even take on the role of caretaker, which can disrupt their development and well-being. 

How to Prove Alcoholism or Addiction in Divorce  

Proving alcoholism or addiction in divorce requires collecting and presenting substantial evidence. The court typically looks for consistent patterns of behavior rather than isolated incidents. Evidence can include:  

  • medical records,  

  • criminal records (like DUIs or drug-related offenses), 

  • employment records reflecting job loss or disciplinary actions related to substance abuse, and   

  • financial records showing excessive spending on substances. 

Witness testimony also plays a crucial role. Friends, family members, co-workers, or anyone else who has personally observed the spouse's substance abuse can provide sworn statements or testify in court. Hiring a private investigator to document the spouse's behavior may be beneficial in some cases. 

If you are considering divorcing a partner with addiction issues, the attorneys at The Neshanian Law Firm, Inc can help you. Complete our online contact form or call (949) 577-7935 to request a consultation today! 

Share To: