Divorcing someone struggling with addiction can be frustrating and can require a lot of patience. The State of California recognizes certain circumstances, such as addiction to drugs or alcohol, that may affect child custody, visitation rights, spousal support, and others. Here are 10 steps to successfully divorce an addict.

1. Hiring legal counsel

Hiring an experienced attorney will prove to be beneficial in the long run, as they will act as a valuable resource to prevent any further conflicts from arising. Legal counsel can provide insight into the possible complications involved in family law proceedings.

2. Gathering all necessary documents and evidence

This evidence may be in the form of medical reports, DUI arrests, and court-ordered treatment programs. Presenting this evidence to the court will help prove substance abuse in your divorce case, and prevent any false accusations. You can also maintain an electronic journal of the drug addict’s use before and during the divorce.

3. Presenting evidence for temporary child custody orders

According to California Family Code Section 3011, the child’s best interests are prioritized in child custody disputes. In doing so, courts consider a number of factors, including the history of abuse by one parent or another person seeking custody. Presenting evidence and documents such as those outlined above will help you and your attorney collaborate and strategize a parenting time plan and other details within a custody dispute.

4. Arming yourself with relevant knowledge

There are key things to keep in mind when divorcing an addict which may prove to be important throughout your divorce process. For example, drug addiction is not a legal excuse to disregard child support payments. Additionally, an alcoholic spouse is not entitled to spousal support in a divorce.

5. Protecting your assets if necessary

Another important concern during the divorce process is protecting your assets from an addicted spouse. This may be accomplished through a restraining order or an order to physically deliver up possession of the property for safekeeping by a lawyer or accountant on file.

Related: How to Protect Your Assets in a California Divorce

6. Knowing when to turn to the court

Many people find that mediation and collaborative law are effective for their divorce cases. However, when divorcing an addict, you may run into issues such as dishonesty or manipulation. In this case, it may be useful to put your case in the hands of a judge to determine credibility and control any bad behavior under the threat of being held in contempt of court. Furthermore, some terms agreed upon solely through collaborative law or mediation may be more difficult to enforce without a court order.

7. Safeguarding your children

Keeping children safe while divorcing an addict is always of primary importance. Judges will typically put the best interests of the child first and attempt to minimize any risk towards them. The court often requires a parent with addiction to access the child solely through supervised visitation at an independent supervision center or in the presence of a trusted family member.

Related: Understanding Divorce with Children in California

8. Gathering a list of witnesses

There are two groups of witnesses that may be useful resources in your divorce process: friendly witnesses and hostile witnesses. Friendly witnesses essentially provide information to you and your divorce attorney on facts related to your spouse’s addiction. Hostile witnesses, on the other hand, are those that have personal knowledge of your spouse’s drug addiction, but will be more hesitant to testify voluntarily. These witnesses will generally need to be subpoenaed and will usually comprise of the addict’s friends, family, or even their dealer.

9. Developing a strategy with your divorce attorney

By putting together a specific strategy with your divorce attorney, you will collectively address issues regarding custody and support orders, whether or not the addicted spouse is a threat to you or your children, and whether or not the addict is the family’s source of financial support.

10. Believing in yourself and the divorce process

A divorce process without having to deal with an addicted spouse can already be complicated and problematic. By utilizing the proper legal resources and holding your ground during this process, you will be doing everything in your power to generate a positive outcome. Just remember to breathe and feel free to look into other methods of support during the divorce, such as a family therapist who specializes in dealing with addicts.

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