Trust is central to maintaining a healthy marriage. Unfortunately, addiction or the strong urge to engage in disruptive behavior can undermine a couple’s confidence in each other and lead to marital ruin.
However, the addiction per se may be insufficient for the court to grant the divorce. The complaining spouse must prove that the misconduct has been continuous and severe enough to cause damage to the family. In effect, a spouse’s addiction can be a relevant factor in settling specific divorce issues.
The impact of a proven addiction
In New Jersey, extreme cruelty is one of the grounds for a fault-based divorce. This basis can be any action that endangers a spouse, making it impossible to continue cohabiting with the offending party. Aside from physical, mental and sexual abuse, it can also take the form of addiction to alcohol, drugs or gambling.
Addiction can corrupt the brain’s normal functioning, which can lead to adverse consequences. Thus, the court takes a spouse’s compulsion to substances and gambling into account when deciding on the following divorce concerns:
- Child custody: With impaired judgment due to excessive alcohol, drugs or gambling, a parent may be unfit to raise their child. They may create an unstable environment that threatens the child’s well-being. Depending on the situation, the court may order a supervised visitation and award custody to the sober spouse.
- Property division: Continually feeding cravings and chasing bets can drain savings and create debts. The judge may deem it equitable to award a more substantial share of the marital estate to the sober spouse to make up for how the other party funded their addiction using marital money.
- Alimony: The addiction may leave a spouse unable to fend for themselves. So, the court may order the sober spouse to provide support. Conversely, the sober spouse may receive a larger amount if the other party squandered marital finances.
Addiction can have far-reaching negative implications for all family members. Thus, courts take it seriously before finalizing a divorce settlement.
The impact of a false accusation
Not all addiction allegations turn out to be true. False statements or exaggerations are possible if a spouse intends to gain the upper hand in negotiations. When this happens, the reputation, career and relationships of the falsely accused can be at risk. So, the complaining spouse must keep in mind that the judge may not look at them favorably if they try to manipulate the situation.
Ultimately, it will be wise if both parties seek legal guidance to protect their rights and interests. If they fail to reach an agreement, the court will weigh all applicable considerations for a fair resolution that upholds the child’s best interests.