Custody and addiction do not mix, as the Pitts are finding out. Brad Pitt is opening up for the first time about his pending divorce from Angelina Jolie. The 53-year-old actor says he has quit drinking since then and is seeing a therapist.

The Pitt Divorce

Pitt tells GQ Style magazine that the recent chaos in his personal life was “self-inflicted.” Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt in September, days after it was reported that Pitt was abusive toward their 15-year-old son on a plane. Pitt was eventually cleared by authorities.

Custody & Substance Abuse

Alcohol is legal, and certain type of drugs – although illegal in Florida, but becoming legal in many states – can have a big impact in your custody or divorce trial, because it impacts how the court crafts a parenting plan, including the time-sharing with children.

Generally, for purposes of establishing or modifying any kind of parenting plan – which governs each parent’s relationship with his or her child and the relationship between each parent – courts look to the best interest of the child as the primary consideration.

However, what does the “best interest” test for child custody mean when discussing drug or alcohol abuse?

A determination of the best interests is made by evaluating a number of statutory factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the family, including, the parents’ ability to maintain a substance abuse free environment for the child.

An interesting area of law, and one in which I’ve litigated at the trial and appeal levels is how do you prove a parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol? The easy answer is testing, but testing is not always easy.

A compulsory drug testing is authorized only when the party submitting the request has good cause for the examination. Under the rule, if you request your spouse get tested, you have the burden of showing both the “in controversy” and “good cause” prongs have been satisfied before the court can order testing.

Addiction & Divorce

I’ve written about the intersection of addiction and custody before. Ironically, scientists at the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions found that couples where only one spouse was a heavy drinker had a much higher divorce rate than other couples.

However, when both spouses were heavy drinkers, the divorce rate was the same as for couples who were not heavy drinkers at all. And that’s the surprising outcome:

50% of couples in which one partner was imbibing significantly more than their spouse ended up divorcing. However, that number dropped to 30% for couples who possessed similar drinking habits, regardless of if they were heavy or light drinkers.

What researchers have concluded is that heavy drinking spouses may be more tolerant of negative experiences related to alcohol due to their own drinking habits.

The Pitts

Make no mistake, heavy drinking can ruin your life. From a divorce perspective, it is interesting that divorce rates are worst for marriages in which one spouse drinks heavy and the other does not. The research may mean that differing behavior is to blame, not alcohol.

Brad Pitt says he and Jolie have agreed to “work together” on shared custody of their six children because it’s “very jarring for the kids, to suddenly have their family ripped apart.”

Pitt says he has to focus less on work and more on listening to his children.