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The Role of Substance Abuse in Divorce Proceedings

Family Law Attorneys Representing People in Nashville and Surrounding Areas

Substance abuse can become a serious issue in a marriage, and it may contribute to a couple’s divorce. Addressing a spouse’s substance abuse may be relevant throughout the divorce proceedings, especially in matters involving children and custody considerations. When a divorce involves a spouse with a substance abuse issue, matters may become more complicated. The Nashville divorce attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC help clients determine what is effective for their families and them when deciding to end a marriage. The stress and emotion of divorce proceedings can increase exponentially for parties dealing with someone’s addiction to drugs or alcohol, and our firm is dedicated to offering compassionate legal guidance throughout the process. We represent clients throughout Davidson and Williamson Counties, and our attorneys are available to answer your questions regarding the role of substance abuse in divorce. Contact our office today to speak with a legal professional and find out more about how we can help.

The Role of Substance Abuse in Divorce Proceedings

In Tennessee, a spouse may file for divorce on no-fault grounds, such as irreconcilable differences, or petition for divorce based on fault, such as in situations involving adultery, domestic violence, or drug or alcohol abuse. Pursuant to Tennessee statute, a marriage can be dissolved due to one spouse’s habitual drinking or drug abuse, when the substance abuse was unknown to the petitioning spouse at the time of the marriage or when the abuse began afterwards. When a fault divorce is sought, the petitioning spouse must present evidence to show wrongful actions by the non-petitioning spouse. In instances in which one spouse is requesting a divorce based on the other spouse’s drug or alcohol abuse, drug testing may be necessary.

A parent’s substance abuse is important in child custody and visitation determinations especially. Courts make custody and visitation decisions based on what is in a child’s best interest. When there is evidence showing that a parent has a substance abuse issue, a judge may place limitations on visitation, such as ordering no overnight stays or requiring supervised visitation only. A judge can also require a parent to undergo drug or alcohol screenings, attend meetings, or get rehabilitative treatment. In the most extreme situations, a judge could grant full custody to a sober parent and allow no visitation from the other parent at all.

Pursuant to Tennessee law, parental rights can be terminated altogether if a substance abuse issue has resulted in any of the following:

  • A court has previously removed a child from the home for six months or more.
  • It is concluded that if a child returned to the home, a reasonable probability of abuse or neglect would exist.
  • A parent has only a small likelihood of ceasing drug abuse.
  • If the parent-child relationship were to continue, there is a diminished chance that the child would have a safe and stable home.

When a substance abuse issue arises after a divorce has been granted, a former spouse may need to seek a modification of the final judgment, which must be based on a substantial and material change in circumstances since the judgment was entered. Timing in any of these issues is vital to ensuring an appropriate outcome for your family. Consulting a knowledgeable family law attorney is important to make sure that these matters are handled appropriately.

Contact a Skillful Family Law Attorney in Nashville

A divorce involving someone dealing with substance abuse can make matters more complicated, and making sure that you have the guidance of a seasoned attorney is essential. The divorce attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC work tirelessly on behalf of clients to ensure that the best interests of their families are served. Our firm represents people throughout Williamson and Davidson Counties, including in Nashville, East Nashville, Franklin, Green Hills, and Sylvan Park. If you need legal assistance with a divorce or any other family law matter, contact our office at 615-800-7096 or online to discuss your case.