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Will your spouse's drug abuse or alcoholism affect your divorce?

There are a lot of reasons why a person might seek a divorce. Sometimes, it's an extramarital affair. Sometimes, it's incompatibility. Years of living together may have left the two of you feeling bored and isolated. Another incredibly common reason that people seek divorce is substance abuse by the other spouse.

No matter how much you love someone or how dedicated you are to making a marriage work, drug and alcohol abuse can make staying together impossible. Between the financial strain substance abuse causes and the potential for negative interactions, it's easy to see how it ends marriages.

Some people become abusive when drunk or under the influence of drugs. Substance abusers could hit or verbally abuse people or animals that share their living space. They may break items, from beer bottles to mirrors and windows, in intoxicated fits of anger. Other people remain calm, if difficult to communicate with, when intoxicated.

Regardless of how your spouse acts when under the influence, you may wonder if substance abuse will factor into your divorce. Massachusetts divorce proceedings can be complicated, but a little research can help you determine what impact to expect.

In Massachusetts, substance abuse is grounds for divorce

When you divorce in Massachusetts, your divorce can get based on grounds, that is, legal reasons for a divorce, or it can get filed as a no-fault divorce. If you believe your spouse will push back against divorcing, fault-based divorce may be a good option for you.

Grounds for divorce

Thankfully, substance abuse of either drugs or alcohol are grounds for divorce. You will need to show the courts that this is an ongoing issue, not just a case of occasional social drinking. Bar receipts, drunken texts and police reports can all be useful for proving that your spouse has an unaddressed substance abuse issue.

While substance abuse can help you get a divorce if your spouse doesn't agree to one, it generally won't have much impact on asset division. Exceptions to this occur in cases where the spouse without the substance abuse issue also seeks custody of the couple's minor children because of the substance abuse. The courts may consider this when deciding on certain terms, like who keeps the house. If your spouse agrees to therapy, however, it's unlikely to result in a denial of visitation or shared custody rights.

There is one other way that substance abuse could factor into your divorce during asset division. If your spouse has used marital assets (money or other assets earned during your marriage) to support a drinking or drug habit, the courts could consider that asset dissipation. When one spouse wastes or squanders marital assets for personal reasons, the courts may consider reducing his or her share of the assets by the amount that got wasted.

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