Is Drug Usage an Issue in Divorce Cases?
Drug use can be a sensitive topic when it is brought up in the course of a divorce. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll discuss drugs as being illegal drugs, not prescription drugs, or even abuse of prescription medications.
Drug use can have an impact on decisions that judges make in family law cases. However, in certain circumstances it may not be as much of an issue as it seems.
Drugs and Custody
Even though the law makes it illegal to use certain drugs, the reality is that there is a difference in family law cases (and sometimes in criminal law cases), between casual, recreational usage of a drug like marijuana, or the use of “harder” drugs like cocaine or heroin. The use of the latter is never good to have revealed in a custody dispute.
One area where drug usage is often made an issue is in custody disputes—spouses will often want the other spouse drug tested, confident that he or she is using drugs, and thus is not a fit parent. This assertion is both true and untrue.
Legally, drug use by itself does not speak to fitness to have custody of or visitation over a child. When the child is exposed to drug usage by the parent, or when the drug usage affects an adult’s ability to parent, the usage becomes an issue.
For example, if a parent is chronically late taking the child to school, misses the child’s after school events because of the drug usage, and is doling out drugs to friends from the family garage then it is a valid issue in a custody case (and probably a criminal case as well).
However, if the usage is hidden from the child and does not affect anything the parent does, it may not be such a relevant issue.
However, drug usage can be the factor that tips otherwise even scales. For example, assume you have two fit, attentive, and good parents fighting for custody. To some judges, the fact that one parent may be a drug user (especially of the “harder” drugs) could be enough to tip the scales to the other parent.
If you are the using parent, you are also in the position of having to convince a judge that your usage is not in front of, or affecting the child. That can be an uncomfortable, defensive position to be in.
Drugs and Alimony
Drug usage will often have little relevance to alimony, except if the usage is affecting a parent’s ability to earn money, or it is draining marital funds.
For example, if a spouse is not working to full capacity because of drug usage, then it may be an issue in an alimony determination. If a spouse argues that the parties lived a frugal lifestyle, and thus the other spouse should not get a lot of alimony, the fact the parties were living frugally because money was being poured into purchasing drugs, can be raised.
Our Tampa divorce attorneys at The Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group can help you understand the issues that may come up in your divorce. Contact us today for more information.