Drug and alcohol abuse have legal consequences that affect wide swaths of society, but society’s attitudes toward chemical dependency are changing. What was once a moral failing may now be considered a medical or mental illness. The law, though, is playing catch up with these attitudes. If your divorce is complicated by substance abuse, you need strong legal help.
Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner
When substance abuse was a scourge mostly affecting the less developed socio-economic slice of Virginia society, most politicians and law enforcement personnel tended to treat it as criminal behavior. As opioid abuse, for example, has climbed the economic ladder and now infests vast populations of middle class Virginians, many people tend to consider medical intervention more useful than legal intervention.
This “hate the sin, love the sinner” approach may be useful in actually solving the substance abuse crisis gripping Virginia, but Virginia’s laws have not moved as swiftly as these changing attitudes. In fact, Virginia’s drug enforcement laws are tough obstacles to any smooth divorce if you or your wife become ensnared.
Who the Abusers Are in Virginia
Virginia, like the entire country, has always had a drug and alcohol abuse problem. Perhaps it is simply human nature, or a price we pay for our stressful ways of living in this country. Whether you trace a historical finger back to laudanum and cocaine as everyday medicines, or restrict your view to the rise in marijuana from the 1950s onward, people have long abused substances that abuse their bodies.
The Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine (VCAM) says the three most common addictions in Virginia are:
- Opioids — VCAM says opioid overdose has quadrupled over the years since 1999
- Alcohol — 4,311 Virginians are addicted to alcohol alone, says VCAM
- Combinations — This means abusing drugs and alcohol or prescription drugs of different variations
Though opioid abuse grabs major headlines, USA Today reports that the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford has the highest percentage (18 percent) of adults binge or heavy drinking, but that is not too much above the state average of 17.4 percent. Renowned party school Virginia Tech is in Blacksburg.
Addiction to painkillers, a willingness to binge drink or a tendency to abuse opioids crosses racial, economic and educational lines. Every adult Virginian (and a significant number of underage Virginians), including a Virginian seeking divorce, is susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse.
Your Wife is the Substance Abuser
Actions your spouse commits because of her substance abuse problem could be grounds for divorce. Some of those desperate actions, perhaps taken to pay for an addiction but still illegal under Code of Virginia § 20-91, could include:
- Sodomy or buggery outside of your marriage
- Conviction for a felony charge that results in at least one year of jail time
- Cruelty or threats toward you
- Willful desertion or abandonment of you, the husband
These are all fault grounds that can accelerate your divorce, removing the separation waiting period otherwise required and moving straight to the divorce proceedings.
Her guilt under Virginia’s Drug Control Act will also make a case for child custody nearly impossible for her. Her substance abuse will likely prevent her from being considered a fit mother for your children, if you have any from the marriage.
If she is confined to a rehabilitation center or is screened for drugs under, for example, Code of Virginia § 18.2-251, her chances for unsupervised visitation of your children are greatly reduced. The Virginia Department of Social Services may intervene to allow her to see your kids, but under their watchful eye.
You may also exert some leverage with property settlement, if your attorney can help the court to see that equitable division of assets may only feed into her addiction (providing her additional cash resources).
You are the Substance Abuser
If, on the opposite end of your divorce, you are the substance abuser, you face the same laws and limitations outlined above. Your (you choose: failing/criminality/disease/habit/indulgence) gives your wife plenty of ways to add to your suffering.
If your abuse endangers others, like your children or your wife, you have almost no wiggle room before a Virginia divorce judge. Your attorney may advise you to stay as quiet as possible and cause as little fuss as possible to avoid even larger repercussions.
Whatever your reasons to consider divorce, we also want to encourage you to seek help for the abuse problem that makes that divorce either inevitable or more complicated. A list of Virginia drug treatment centers is available, and the Commonwealth provides substance abuse services through the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
Call The Firm For Men
Family law in Virginia is complicated, and the opioid crisis has made it worse. A call to The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184, or a contact online, can connect you with experienced attorneys for men familiar not only with divorce and family law, but the legal challenges from drug and alcohol abuse. Whether you are the substance abuser or the victim of one, we can help. We can get your life moving again. We are ready to serve you, the men of Virginia, in whatever way is most helpful.