How can a spouse’s substance abuse issues affect a Texas divorce?

In Texas, substance abuse on the part of one spouse may affect many aspects of a divorce, including child custody, alimony and marital property division.

The abuse of drugs or alcohol can have many negative impacts on a person's life and loved ones. Not surprisingly, substance abuse issues may be an underlying factor in many divorces in Houston. Families affected by these problems can benefit from understanding just how substance abuse issues can affect a divorce settlement in Texas.

Custody and visitation

Under the Texas Family Code, family law judges must award child custody and visitation, which are referred to as possession and access, with the best interests of the child in mind. Judges also must try to give each child a stable, safe environment that is free of violence. If a parent suffers from substance abuse issues, a judge may decide not to award possession. If a parent's addiction is considered a significant threat to the child's safety or well-being, a judge may also curtail access.

Spousal support

When awarding spousal support, one factor that family law judges may consider is whether one spouse dissipated or wasted a substantial amount of marital assets. If a spouse spent a large amount of money on drugs or alcohol, the other spouse might be given a more favorable award of alimony. The same is true if a spouse's addiction adversely affected the marital finances or property in another way.

Spouses should note, however, that they must meet various criteria to be eligible for alimony. Per the Texas Family Code, alimony can only be granted if the requesting spouse needs it to provide for his or her financial needs. The availability of alimony also depends on the length of the marriage, the health of the requesting spouse, any past allegations of abuse and other factors. Therefore, one spouse's dissipation of assets due to addiction doesn't necessarily entitle the other spouse to alimony.

Property division

During the process of marital property division, Texas family law judges can also consider any factors necessary to arrive at a "just and right" division of property. These relevant factors could include one spouse's depletion of marital assets. If awarding alimony isn't an option given a couple's financial circumstances, a judge might choose to divide property in a manner that reflects one spouse's dissipation of marital assets due to addiction.

Navigating the divorce process

Complex issues like substance abuse have the potential to make divorce an even more complicated process. Consequently, spouses whose divorces involve these issues may benefit from consulting with an attorney who has experience with these unusual cases. An attorney may be able to advise a person on his or her rights, the relevant laws and potential legal strategies.