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What is Alcoholism and how does it affect divorce?

Couple with man drinking

Often the lines between social or even stress drinking and consuming alcohol to the point that it becomes excessive is difficult to pin down. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical disorder in which alcohol use or consumption causes the individual hardship or distress. Some common symptoms can include:

-The inability to control how much one drinks;

-The inability to realize or reflect upon how much or how often one consumes alcohol;

-A built up tolerance, meaning the need for the person to consume an ever-growing greater volume of alcohol to feel the desired effects of relaxation or intoxication;

-Experiencing cravings toward drinking where the affected person cannot stop thinking about their desire to consume alcohol;

-Experiencing physical symptoms of withdrawal including sweating, nausea, shakiness or other negative physical feelings when the person does not consume alcohol at regular intervals.

-Many alcoholics engage in extreme levels of lying or dishonesty. This may include the fact that they are consuming alcohol, the level of alcohol consumed, the timing of consuming alcohol, their failure to meet responsibilities, feed children, among many other similar things;

There is a strong statistical correlation between alcoholism and heightened divorce rates. Often at its advanced stages, an alcoholic destroys relationships, ignores responsibilities and becomes difficult or impossible to live with.

How does Alcoholism affect your marriage and ultimately, your divorce?

Alcoholism often not only affects the person suffering, but also their family members. Often, as the spouse, you have been dealing with and trying to minimize the fall-out and damaging effects of the spouse using alcohol for a long time. A spouse who has dealt with the other spouse’s addiction is often at a point where the addiction has taken over the family’s life and has become unmanageable and unlivable. An individual experiencing alcoholism often prioritizes his or her focus on alcohol above other responsibilities including the loss of a job or poor/declining performance at work, declining relationships with children (or an inability to care for the children properly), serious health problems, among many other potential consequences.

How do you divorce an alcoholic spouse while recovering from the ordeal you’ve been through?

Often a spouse who has suffered through the other spouse experiencing alcoholism or addiction is already exhausted and worn down going into the divorce process. He or she feels guilt for “giving up” and often wonders if they are making the wrong decision. Sharing the concerns you have about your spouse’s alcohol use, as well as what you have experienced and your fears and concerns with your divorce attorney is the best way to ensure that a plan can be developed to address your needs and to seek the best possible outcome for the situation.

How do you prove alcoholism in a divorce or court process?

People often ask about how they will be able to express or share with the court that their spouse is suffering from alcoholism or at least, a concerning level of alcohol consumption. While each situation and factual scenario varies, some of the ways that we present evidence of alcoholism to the court can include the following:

-Police reports;

-A history of alcohol-related crimes, including DUI’s, or other accident reports;

-Medical records or rehabilitation records;

-direct testimony of what you have witnessed or experienced;

-Notes, emails or text messages from the spouse acknowledging problems or issues with alcohol consumption, or acknowledging a desire or intention to become sober;

-Video footage of the spouse’s behavior while intoxicated/under the influence of alcohol;

Generally, alcohol use and consumption has the greatest consideration for the court in determining and awarding child custody. While alcoholism may be considered as a factor in other issues such as property division if the alcoholism resulted in loss or dissipation of assets or in a request for maintenance if the alcoholic spouse is claiming he or she is unable to support himself through gainful employment, but is not able to meaningfully advance job skills due to consumption of alcohol, most people attempting to prove alcoholism, do so for a child custody situation.

The judge in a child custody case is governed, overriding all other considerations, by the best interests of the child. Judges want children to be physically, mentally and emotionally safe in the custody/parenting time of each of their parents. Some moderate drinking, especially if done away from the children, likely will not have a significant impact on custody determinations, however, if a parent is suffering from alcoholism, it may be a situation where supervised visits are required until the parent can rehabilitate himself or herself by addressing the alcohol problem and becoming sober.

If you are struggling with a spouse who suffers from alcoholism (or you are suffering from alcoholism), it is important you work with a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney who can help navigate these important and difficult issues. Call Pingel Family Law today to schedule your consultation at (816) 208-8130.