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Addiction and Divorce

By James S. Margulis, Esq.

Addiction is a fatal disease that affects divorce cases in so many facets. In this day and age, is there anyone who is not affected by addiction in some way, shape, or form? Is there anyone who does not know a family member, a friend, or a co-worker who is afflicted? In fact, I would venture to say that addiction is the leading cause of divorce in America. Perhaps not on the surface, perhaps not in the surveys, but if we were to explore the root cause of divorce in America, I am confident that addiction would be the leading cause. Look no further than the celebrity gossip source, TMZ – Brooke Mueller, Denise Richards, Charlie Sheen, Michael Lohan and the list goes on and on. Hollywood is reflective of society in this regard.

Once the marriage is broken, and financial and emotional devastation has engulfed the family, how does one begin to pick up the pieces? How does one address the massive credit card debt and medical debt? What about those taxes you owe?

Most importantly, what about the children? How do we repair the harm have they suffered? How do we fashion a Parenting Plan that will provide them recovery, stability and security?

None of it matters, unless the addict takes responsibility for themselves and their recovery. If they do not, they will surely end up in jail or dead. Then the divorce case becomes a probate case.

However, in belief that the addict will recover, we will focus on the children issues.

Often times it is best to start with some form of supervised timesharing. Often times the addicted parent has been absent – either by way of active addiction or by way of rehabilitation, or both. Furthermore, depending on the age of the children (if they are younger), supervision may be appropriate in a general sense for their security. This supervision should occur for an interim period as the transition of the addicted parent's time with the children is incrementally increased. As the addict recovers, and the children feel safer, supervised timesharing can be slowly reduced and ultimately removed.

It is also critical that the there is a therapeutic component involved with the timesharing. The oversight and integration of a well trained therapist will help guide not only the children and the addicted parent, but also the other parent who is most likely walking through their own pain and grief. Having a therapist oversee the global process will help mitigate the issues inherent in this process. Their objective view will help guide the process and keep it on track.

Finally, the most important elements are patience and time. The breakdown did not occur over one day, one week, or one month. Recovery will not happen overnight. Yet, if the appropriate components are in place, the road to recovery and healing will occur, and ultimately, the children will recover.