How to find a divorce lawyer in Cape Town, South Africa

Rehabilitated drug addicts and custody

I recently got consulted by a man from Table View in Cape Town with regard to the abovementioned query. He had advised me that he had been separated from his wife for four months, and that she alleged that she had been “clean” for this period of time. Whilst they had been living together his wife had apparently gone out every night to pubs and clubs. She was addicted to “tik” and “cocaine”. She furthermore had a history of being admitted to rehabilitation centres.

In the abovementioned case the wife, who now claimed to be rehabilitated from her addiction, threatened my client by saying that she would ask for sole custody of the child. In this particular case the minor child had been spending an equal amount of time with his mother and his father. I advised my client that I was convinced in terms of the new Children’s Act that his wife would not be entitled to full custody of the child.

I furthermore advised my client that his wife’s history of alcohol and drug abuse would certainly be used against her if the matter were referred to a family advocate for investigation. The courts would view alcohol and drug abuse as an addiction which can resurface at any stage. The fact that this lady had only been clean for four months would definitely be taken into account should the matter be referred to the family advocate for investigation.

Although the abovementioned case relating to custody has not at this stage been referred to the family advocate, I am convinced that the court would award joint custody, and perhaps even full custody to the man due to his wife’s drug history.

This weekend I read an article in a magazine which I find particularly interesting. The article deals with the divorce case between Victoria Spencer and Jonathan Aitken. As everybody knows, Victoria is the ex-wife of Lord Charles Spencer, brother of deceased Princess Diana.

I was quite surprised to read that they were getting divorced, as a few years ago I remember reading an article and seeing pictures of them in happier days. What is particularly interesting about this case is that they are both recovering drug addicts, and have a minor child together. I understand that Mr. Aitken abused “cocaine” excessively. The two had apparently formed a close relationship at the start, due to their common interest in recovery from drug abuse.

In such a case one party can clearly not in the divorce papers allege that the other party abused drugs in the past, and would therefore be a bad parent, as they are guilty of the same thing. It is actually quite common in my personal experience that when one party has a history of alcohol or drug abuse, so does the other party.

The courts always take into account what is in the best interest of the minor child. A drug addict or alcoholic is never really fully recovered, and can “relapse” at any stage. The courts would in such a case look at the probability of the parent relapsing again, and also look at what type of alcohol or drug was being abused.

One of the easiest ways to check whether your partner has been abusing drugs is to take a hair sample for testing. Drug testing kits can also be purchased at your local pharmacy. Although you can never force somebody to go to a rehabilitation centre, if you are able obtain evidence of drug and/or alcohol abuse, this will definitely stand up as evidence in some way in a court of law.

This article was written by Cape Town divorce law specialist, Peter M Baker

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