If your spouse has slowly made the transition from a social drinker to a functional (or less-than-functional) alcoholic over the course of your marriage, you may be starting to consider your options -- including divorce. For those whose spouses are unwilling to pursue treatment or counseling, removing oneself from the situation through a legal divorce is often the best form of physical, mental, and financial self-preservation. However, regardless of the divorce laws of the state in which you live, there are some issues unique to divorcing an alcoholic that may come into play. Read on to learn more about the factors you'll want to consider when pursuing a divorce from an alcoholic spouse.
How can one spouse's alcoholism affect the divorce process?
Although divorce laws can differ from state to state, all 50 states permit "no fault" divorce under certain circumstances. This means that you shouldn't have to allege that your spouse committed adultery, engaged in fraud, or took any other specific actions (or inactions) that are considered to legally justify divorce in your state. Because some states specifically include addiction in their list of criteria for "fault" divorces, you do have the choice whether to seek a fault or no-fault divorce in these states.
In some cases, pursuing a no-fault divorce and leaving the alcoholism issue off the table is the wisest course of action. If you believe the marriage is irretrievably broken, have no children and easily divisible assets, and want only to make a clean break and move on with your life, you may wish to just seek a no-fault divorce and quickly resolve your case.
On the other hand, if you have minor children or if your soon-to-be ex-spouse has squandered marital assets on his or her addiction, you may need to introduce this alcoholism as a contributing factor to the divorce to protect your children and your share of marital assets. If you're able to establish that you're the more responsible parent or that you've suffered financial harm due to your spouse's alcoholism, you have a better chance of being awarded primary legal and physical custody or even getting a larger share of marital assets to compensate for the money your spouse wasted.
What should you do to protect yourself when divorcing an alcoholic?
If you're planning to introduce your spouse's alcoholism as a determining factor when it comes to issues of child custody, asset division, or other aspects of your divorce that will be litigated in court, you'll first need to gather some hard evidence. Alleging that your spouse is an alcoholic without providing any proof won't be convincing to the court and could make it look as though you're just trying to sling mud to improve your own chances of being awarded full custody or a favorable settlement.
For example, if you're going to allege that your soon-to-be ex-spouse routinely drinks and drives and should not be permitted to transport your children alone, a cell phone photo of empty beer cans in the garbage or even liquor receipts isn't going to be sufficient to establish the facts you're alleging. You may need to solicit testimony from credible witnesses who have personally seen your spouse drink and drive -- in some cases, even allowing your own children to be questioned and cross-examined by counsel.
As a result, you'll want to begin documenting your spouse's behavior and actions immediately, particularly those related to his or her drinking. By keeping track of dates, conversations, and events, you'll be well prepared to call witnesses or gather important documents (like accident reports or even employee disciplinary reports) when it comes time for trial. If you want to get in touch with a law firm to set up a consultation, check it out by following the link.