How Substance Abuse Can Affect Divorce Proceedings


Divorces can be messy and draining. Navigating a divorce with (past or present) substance abuse issues is even more complicated. Substance abuse issues can affect multiple facets of your divorce, especially when children are involved.

How Does Substance Abuse Affect Divorce?

No divorce is the same, and substance abuse can affect divorce proceedings differently. There is more of an effect if children are involved. The divorce may also be filed as a fault-based divorce, which can have an impact depending on how the substance abuse affected the marriage.

What to Expect in a Divorce Involving Substance Abuse

When there are no child custody concerns, substance abuse is less of a concern. Even though Texas is a community property state, the division of assets or spousal maintenance (alimony) may sway in favor of the sober spouse.

Take, for example, if they can prove that the addiction and abuse negatively impacted the marital finances, they may receive alimony. Or if it can be proven that community property was used to support an addiction, they might try to receive a larger share of the community property.

Substance Abuse and Child Custody

The safety and welfare of the child(ren) is the top priority; thus, substance abuse issues and accusations are taken very seriously by courts. To hold any weight, any accusations of alcohol and/or drug abuse must be corroborated with proof. Either party may bring forth evidence to prove or disprove substance abuse.

To establish a history of abuse, a spouse may submit:

If substance abuse is proven, then certain restrictions, like a graduated custody schedule, may be put in place.

Can Past Substance Abuse Harm My Divorce Proceedings?

Your partner may accuse you of substance abuse, and while you have a history, it’s ancient history. Again, this accusation can have a serious impact on your divorce when it comes to child custody. What do you do when your spouse brings up your history of substance abuse?

Well, you will still need to counter the accusation by providing proof that you aren’t at risk of a relapse, nor are you a danger.

Disproving Substance Abuse Allegations

If you are a recovering addict and/or sober, you might wonder how you can prove to the court that your addiction is no longer an issue. You might consider providing evidence that shows you are addressing and/or managing your addiction, such as a(n):

  • Attendance of AA meetings
  • Psychological evaluation
  • Consistent Behavior
  • Record of out-patient therapy
  • Witness Testimonies

In some instances, you might also consider agreeing to a drug or remote alcohol monitoring system, like Soberlink.

Are Texas Divorces Public Record?

Yes, Texas divorce records are public and available to anyone. Divorce records can be attained online via the Texas Department of Health and Human Services’ (TDHHS) Vital Statistics page. They can also be found at the clerk’s office in the county where the divorce occurred. Some divorce records may also be available on third-party websites.

It is also important to note that there are different types of divorce records that contain different information.

What is a Texas Divorce Certificate?

A divorce certificate includes a statement that the two parties have gotten a divorce, where the divorce took place, and the date and time the divorce became final. You might request a divorce certificate if you are looking to change your name or get remarried. This should only be accessed by the divorced couple and their respective divorce attorneys. Others may be allowed access in some circumstances, though.

What is a Texas Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree is a court document; this document contains all the information included in the divorce certificate but also includes all the information that the parties agreed upon, such as spousal maintenance, child support and custody, and property division. A divorce decree will be signed by a judge and include a case number. Again, this can be accessed by the two parties and their legal representation, and in certain instances, outside parties.

What is a Texas Divorce Record?

A divorce record is the most accessible of the documents. This document can be equated to a case file and will include the combined information found in the divorce certificate and decree as well as all files and documents from the divorce proceedings.

Can Divorce Documents Be Sealed?

If your spouse’s attorney filed a motion or entered evidence you wouldn’t like to be public knowledge, you might be researching how to seal your divorce records. If you and your spouse both agree, you can request and file a motion to seal your records. While sealing records in family law cases is less strict, you may be required to prove that sealing the records is the only way to protect your interests and won’t negatively impact public health and safety.

Sealing the records is at the discretion of the court, and in some cases, only certain information and aspects of the record may be redacted. It’s important to note that records, in some circumstances, can be unsealed. Sealing your records can be complicated, though, and you should consider getting in touch with an attorney for help.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney

We all have a past, and our pasts shouldn’t define us. While our choices do have consequences and ripple effects, your substance abuse issues don’t guarantee that you’ll get the “raw end of the deal” in your divorce or custody case. Reach out to a knowledgeable family law attorney who can fight for—and best help—you.

With over 40 years of experience, J. Roland Jeter, P.C. is committed to providing his clients with diligent, compassionate legal representation. To schedule a consultation and get the support you need, call J. Roland Jeter, P.C. today at (972) 330-4050.

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