Addiction issues can have a negative impact on aspects of a divorce in Indiana. Courts take substance abuse seriously, especially when there are minor children involved. Child custody and parenting time may be restricted, supervised, or not granted at all to the addicted party until appropriate treatment is successfully completed. A party suffering from addiction who dissipates marital assets to support their addiction may also be negatively affected by an unequal property division award. This blog explores the impact of addiction on divorce in Indiana and how the court makes various decisions during the divorce process.
When issuing a child custody order, the court must consider the best interests of the child. The statute governing custody orders (I.C. 31-17-2-8) lists a number of factors that shall be considered when determining a child’s best interests. It also provides that any other factor affecting the child’s well-being may be considered. Substance abuse disorders often become an issue during custody disputes when the parent with the addiction becomes unable or unwilling to properly care for a child, as was the case in Dobbs. Here, mother’s alcoholism and prescription drug abuse caused her to ignore the child’s basic medical needs and fail to participate in the child’s daily care. During the Dobbs’ divorce, mother informed father that he may not be the biological father of the child. Father obtained a DNA test, which confirmed that he was not the child’s natural father. The court, however, granted him custody of the child stating that “the evidence herein clearly and convincingly demonstrates that [Husband] has been the only responsible caretaker of the child” (Dobbs v. Dobbs, 41 N.E.3d 306 (Ind. App. 2015)).
Another consideration when it comes to child custody is legal custody, which grants one or both parents the authority to make important decisions for the child, such as those concerning education, healthcare, and religious training. Factors considered in making an award of joint legal custody include (I.C. 31-17-2-15): the parents’ fitness and suitability to make decisions, whether the parties are willing and able to communicate and cooperate with one another in raising a child from different households, and the nature of the physical and emotional environment in the home of each of the persons awarded joint custody. In J.R.H, the court found that because of mother’s addiction, she made poor decisions and did not provide emotional support to the child, and while father behaved in a controlling and bullying manner towards her, it was in the child’s best interests for father to have sole legal custody (J.R.H. v. O.M.H., Court of Appeals No. 25A03-1611-DR-2534 (Ind. App. Aug. 10, 2017)).
Parenting time awards during a divorce can also be impacted by addiction, if the court finds that the substance abuse may cause the parties award of parenting time to endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair their emotional development (I.C. 31-17-4-1). This was the case in Hensley, where father struggled with a drug addiction for many years and was granted supervised visitation on the condition that he submit to regular drug testing and undergo 18 months of drug rehabilitation during a period of time when we was not forced to stop using drugs due to incarceration (Hensley v. Troesch (In re Paternity of C.L.H.), Court of Appeals Cause No. 18A-JP-3038 (Ind. App. May 6, 2019)).
Finally, when a party uses marital assets to finance an addiction, the court may consider this a dissipation of the assets, and order an unequal division of property (I.C. 31-15-7-5(4)). Dissipation of the assets involves the use of the marital estate for a purpose unrelated to the marriage (Hardebeck v. Hardebeck, 917 N.E.2d 694, 700 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009)). It may also include the frivolous and unjustified spending of marital assets. In determining whether marital assets have been dissipated, the court will weigh the following factors: “(1) whether the expenditure benefited or was made for a purpose entirely unrelated to the marriage; (2) the timing of the transaction; (3) whether the expenditure was excessive or de minimis; and (4) whether the dissipating party intended to hide, deplete, or divert the marital asset.” (Walls v. Walls, No. 10A01-1112-DR-572 (Ind. App. Dec. 11, 2012)). When the court determines that a party has dissipated assets, the value of the dissipated assets may be subtracted from their share of the marital estate in the divorce.
Addiction not only negatively affects a marriage but can have an adverse effect on a divorce as well, particularly when there are minor children and property to divide. If you are going through a divorce where addiction issues are involved, the attorneys at Ciyou & Associates can help you protect your rights. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.