The Ultimate Guide to Divorcing a Drug Addict (The Right Way)

By:
Michael Tierney
Updated
August 31, 2022

When we get married, we agree to love them through the good and bad. Of course, we also spend a substantial amount of time getting to know them in ways we do not know anyone else. Unfortunately, our spouses do not always stay the way they were when we first agreed to marry them.

Life puts us in unusual circumstances on an alarmingly regular basis that forces us to cope as best we can to survive. The issue is that not every coping mechanism available to us is in our best interest. Some people turn to less savory methods to cope with the realities and stress of life solely for a brief respite. One of the most devastating choices for coping is drug abuse.

Drug abuse is a common and life-shattering issue that can leave the drug user's life in tatters. Even more unfortunate is that most drug abusers are unable or unwilling to make changes to overcome their addiction. If your spouse is someone who uses drugs to escape, their addiction affects you almost as much as it affects them.

Solution This addiction can turn your spouse into a hostile and negative presence in your life that you cannot always fix. Sometimes, someone can be so lost in their addiction that they are unresponsive to any attempts to correct the issue. In some cases, the only safe decision is to divorce your spouse but finding the right way to go about it is the real challenge.

Understand What Kind of Addict They Are

Drug addiction is often portrayed singularly in its more extreme form, where the addict is little more than a disoriented and dysfunctional person. Unfortunately, drug addiction is far more complicated than what popular media tends to show in its content. Three distinct types of drug addicts could match your spouse.

A Drug Addicted Spouse

These include:

  • Functional Addicts: A functional addict is someone you would not be able to identify as a drug addict from an outside perspective. Functional addicts can present themselves as sober and upstanding members of society to the world, with their addictions only showing behind closed doors. Functional addicts generally binge their drug of choice between bouts of sobriety to maintain their façade in public.
  • Dysfunctional Addicts: A dysfunctional addict, as you might have guessed, is the opposite of a functional addict. Dysfunctional addicts cannot go without their drug of choice for extended periods. Their addiction makes it impossible for them to hold a job for more than a few weeks at a time, and they usually end up with a criminal record. Dysfunctional addicts also lack most social skills and are more likely to end up with repeat charges on their criminal record for possession or driving under the influence.
  • Extreme Addicts: Extreme addicts, often derogatorily called "junkies," are addicts who have lost any semblance of function in the real world. Their addiction has grown so severe that they cannot go more than a day without their "fix" and have a greater chance of suffering a lethal overdose. Extreme addicts are also more likely to have extensive connections to criminal elements and present a danger to those around them as they will do anything to feed their addiction.

Understanding the kind of addict your spouse is allows you to find the best angle of approach for divorcing them. Functional addicts are more likely to put up a fight when the divorce begins, while dysfunctional and extreme addicts will have a disadvantage.

That said, it is important to remember that drug addiction is a disease, and your spouse is not always in control of their actions. To that end, it might be in your best interest to take a semi-sympathetic approach but not to the point you forfeit the divorce if their addiction severely impacts your safety or health.

Keep a Record of Their Drug Use

One of the most important parts of divorcing a drug addict is keeping an in-depth record of their drug use. While this can be difficult to do since you will not be with your spouse 24/7, recording what you can as specifically as you can is extremely useful.

The first step is keeping a journal that outlines the times they used drugs before and during the marriage. If you observe your spouse using their drug of choice or other drugs, add to your journal detailing when they were taking the drugs, where they were, and what drug it was. This will help you create a timeline of their drug use to present to your attorney, but it will not be sufficient to provide useable evidence.

You will need to support your written record of their drug use by gathering as much hard evidence as possible. Some of this evidence is harder to gather than others, one of which is trying to get photographs of your spouse while taking the drugs. This will probably be the biggest challenge, depending on your spouse's awareness. A drug-addicted spouse will often attempt to hide their drug use and avoid all cameras in the vicinity. The more dysfunctional addicts will likely be unaware of their surroundings and will be easier to capture on camera. These photographs make your claims of their drug use virtually irrefutable.

Drug Addict Supplies

You can use other forms of documentation in your claims against your spouse. Even the addicts deepest in the hole might attempt to kick the habit at least once. Usually, this is accomplished by attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings or checking into a rehabilitation facility. Either option generates records that can be submitted as evidence of their addiction's existence. If you have lawful possession of copies of these records, submitting them as discovery makes your claims of their drug use more viable. You will need to find additional proof to confirm their relapse.

Additionally, if your spouse has a criminal record for drug abuse, you should get copies of those. Criminal records greatly increase your chances of a favorable divorce settlement since a criminal spouse is viewed as a more serious threat to you and your well-being regardless of drug addiction. If the criminal record is for drug-related crimes such as possession or intoxication from their drug of choice, those records support your side of the story.

Be Aware of Drug Testing Rights

When in a legal battle against a drug addict for any reason, divorce included, presenting evidence that your spouse is currently using drugs is a powerful tool. While it can be difficult to prove their active use of drugs without a confession, there are ways you can prove it without them admitting it.

In some cases, it is possible to compel your spouse to submit to a drug test, the results of which are then presented to the judge overseeing the divorce process. Getting a drug test approved in court will require collaboration with your attorney to ensure the best possible strategy.

You and your legal team can submit a request to compel a type of drug test that your spouse will have to respect. The most common form of drug test is urine tests, requiring your spouse to remain under observation to ensure they are not submitting a sample from someone else to skew the results. However, hair follicle tests also use a hair sample from the accused spouse. Hair follicle tests are tricky since they are unreliable and cannot be admitted in court without consent from both parties.

A Urine Drug Test

It would be best if you took the time to learn more about the different kinds of drug tests and how they are conducted. Doing so will allow you to request the best type of test for your needs and preserve its admissibility in court. When you request a drug test, you will be expected to pay for the testing since your request led to the cost being necessary.

If the test comes back positive, not only is your divorce from your spouse more likely to succeed, but it will also help when negotiating important divorce agreements. These subsequent negotiations bring us to the next major point of divorcing a drug addict. Namely, the effect divorcing your addicted spouse will have on any children you might share.

Fight For Your Children's Safety

One of the major points of contention in divorce is child custody, with both spouses often fighting over who gets full custody of their children.

Solution While not always the case, many drug addicts are dangerous and violent. This violent behavior can lead to your spouse physically harming you or your children because they are intoxicated or withdrawing. Sometimes, the addicted spouse is violent by nature, and their addiction exacerbates that violence.

When dealing with an addicted spouse who presents a current danger to your children, it is important to keep them away from your children. Fortunately, child endangerment is something the legal system takes very seriously and offers tools to overcome. The main tool for preventing a dangerous spouse from accessing you or your children is to have a restraining order or emergency child custody order issued against your spouse. One of the main methods for keeping your spouse away is an ex-parte order that keeps your spouse away physically and financially.

Emergency child custody orders are standard child custody orders issued rapidly to protect your children from exposure to your addicted spouse. If you want such orders issued for your children, you must present additional evidence proving your spouse is an active threat to your children's safety. Any evidence of physical or sexual abuse aimed at your children is sufficient but can be difficult to gather without alerting your spouse. Once again, photographic evidence is your best bet at proving the threat your spouse represents.

A Mother and Child

A drug addict is not inherently forbidden from seeing their children. While they will initially have very little contact with their child, they can petition for more visitation or custody if they prove they have or are being treated for their addiction. If your spouse is in recovery from their addiction during the divorce process, the judge will need to factor this in when deciding visitation and custody arrangements. The odds of an active addict receiving custody are nonexistent, but they will retain the right to interact with their child if they are not actively harming them.

Divorcing a drug addict is infinitely more complicated than can be outlined in any one article. Especially since the legal regulations for such matters vary by state. This information should be sufficient to prepare yourself for the divorce process and gather the resources needed to put together a viable case against your spouse.

Learn the Law

Divorce can be a harrowing process even when your spouse is not a drug addict since your marriage is ending. The situation becomes infinitely more complicated when your spouse is a drug addict. A drug addict is ultimately bound to their condition until they get the help they need, but not every drug addict is willing to seek treatment.

Some addicts cannot seek treatment because their addictions have become so strong, but it is important to remember that your spouse is technically a victim. Drug addiction is a disease, and many of your spouse's behaviors result from that addiction. This is not to say you should excuse their actions but that your spouse's addiction has much control over them.

Drug Addicted Woman

While your spouse's drug addiction is a disease, divorcing them is still valid, and you should not be ashamed. Living with another person's addictions is a great strain and risk to you and your health. The issue is the divorce process itself since divorce is one of the most complicated legal proceedings in the world. The complicated nature of divorce mainly revolves around the number of clauses and laws surrounding the proceedings to ensure equitable distribution of assets.

When preparing for a divorce, the best thing to do is learn as much as possible about the different scenarios that might arise. Once upon a time, this information was hard to access, but now it is much easier to locate. We know this is a difficult time for you and hope the information in this article is of some help.

Written By:
Michael Tierney
Michael is a legal writer and graduate of WSU. Prior to becoming a legal writer, he had 6 years of experience as a legal assistant and office manager for a family law attorney. He's written about numerous legal subjects from helping spouses who are stuck in toxic situations to the intricacies of custody battles. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and building custom keyboards.

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