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Alcohol and Recreational Marijuana in Divorce Cases

Although consuming alcohol and marijuana, to a certain extent and with restrictions, are both legal activities in the State of Colorado, the use of either can pose serious challenges in a divorce case – especially if there are children involved.

Spouses who are engaged in a battle for assets, money and custody of the children may find themselves facing allegations of over-using alcohol and/or marijuana so the other can get the upper hand.

Here’s a little insight into both situations.

How Alcohol affects Divorce

Clients have come to me and said they want more than 50% of the marital estate because their partner was an alcoholic. The client usually rationalizes, “As a financial unit, we’ve spent a lot of money on alcohol, paid DUI fines, spent thousands on legal fees for several DUI cases and our car insurance is ten times as much as it should normally be because of my ex’s alcohol problem.”

Therefore, the person believes he or she is entitled to more of the marital estate.

However, Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. This means that the state refers to divorce as a “dissolution of marriage” and generally will not allow fault to impact the division of the marital estate. Because of this, if one party actually does have a drinking problem, it is likely that the Court may perceive this as something that happened during the marriage, and the other party should have addressed it then. As I tell my clients, the Court is unlikely to “rewrite” the marriage. Also, there is the argument that alcoholism is a disease, and, therefore, this wasn’t willful conduct. However, these issues can become relevant if children are involved.

If there are children involved, things become stickier. It must be determined whether the spouse does indeed have a drinking problem, and, if so, will it affect his or her ability to properly supervise the children, which would factor into the parenting schedule. Since overnight parenting time is a major factor in determining the amount of child support, that may also extend into the conversation regarding child support.

As you can see, alcohol and alcoholism can seriously affect the outcome of a divorce proceeding.

How Marijuana affects Divorce

Similar to the effects of alcohol, simply using marijuana, even to the point of being stoned most of the time, is unlikely to seriously affect the division of the marital estate (as I mentioned earlier, Colorado is a no-fault divorce state).

However, now that recreational marijuana is legal in the State of Colorado, it’s more frequently becoming an issue in many divorce cases where children are present. When a spouse complains that the other party uses marijuana, the other side will respond “it’s legal”.

Yes, marijuana is legal; however, so is alcohol consumption. Would anyone argue that it’s okay to be drunk when you’re responsible for caring for the children? In other words, it is not acceptable to be impaired when you are responsible for caring for the children regardless of legality. Just because it’s legal does not mean it doesn’t impact your ability to parent!

The real question that must be answered in every case that involves marijuana or alcohol is this: When is somebody too impaired by any substance? Like I’ve said before, every case is different and must be handled differently. There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to divorce.

That said, if you are preparing to go through divorce proceedings and you use any kind of drugs or drink alcohol to excess, stop right away. [If you think your spouse will raise this issue, you may just want to stop until the case is over to eliminate the argument.] During the process, you want to be as clean and clear-headed as possible – not only so you can make the best decisions for your case, but also so that you’re not caught in an embarrassing situation that could affect your life and the lives of your children for a long time.

If you’re about to go through a divorce, we recommend the guidance of experienced counsel. Call us at 303-449-1873 to set up a free consultation.