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Should I Bring up my Spouse’s Alcoholism During the Divorce?

Posted on in Divorce

As of 2015, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found 15.1 million adults had an alcohol use disorder, including 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women. Considering these statistics, it is common for one or both of divorcing spouses to have issues with alcohol, including alcoholism. In some situations, this drastically effects a divorce, since excessive drinking may be linked to spousal abuse and child neglect and abuse. However, there are other cases in which a spouse’s alcoholism is unrelated to the divorce and does not need to be addressed in court.

If you are going through a divorce and you believe your spouse is an alcoholic, speak with an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney from Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. before bringing these accusations up in court.

Is Your Spouse an Alcoholic?

Before you bring up alcohol abuse in court, you should consider whether your spouse is truly an alcoholic or simply drinks more often or a greater amount than you think is appropriate. This can be a difficult question to ask yourself, particularly if your spouse’s drinking has negatively impacted you. According to the Mayo Clinic, an alcohol use disorder, which includes what is considered alcoholism, is a pattern of drinking alcohol that involves:

  • Problems controlling drinking
  • Being preoccupied with alcohol
  • Continuing to use alcohol when it causes problems
  • Having to increase the amount of alcohol to obtain the same effect
  • Having withdrawal symptoms when the person stops or decreases drinking

Every person’s relationship with alcohol is a different. A person who drinks multiple glasses of wine or beer each night may not have an alcohol use disorder if their drinking is not a preoccupation, does not cause them problems in life, and they do not experience withdrawal. However, a person who drinks wine or beer each night could be an alcoholic if they exhibit these symptoms.

Speak with your attorney about your spouse’s previous habits, whether your spouse identifies as an alcoholic, and whether your spouse has sought treatment for alcoholism in the past. Your attorney can then guide you through next steps.

Is Your Spouse a Danger to Themselves, You or Others?

After determining whether your spouse likely suffers from an alcohol use disorder, the next important question is whether your spouse poses a danger to themselves, you, your children, or others. If you believe your spouse may hurt themselves or someone else, then your attorney may advise you to seek a mental health evaluation during the divorce. You are entitled to ask that your spouse undergo a psychological evaluation if you can show through evidence that it is both necessary and appropriate. If there is evidence your spouse has harmed you or the children or has threatened to do so, your attorney can help you seek a protective order, also called a restraining order.

Does Your Spouse’s Alcohol Use Impact Your Children?

Even if your spouse has never been neglectful or violent, his or her alcohol use may make him or her unsuitable for a great deal of parenting time and responsibilities. In truth, there is almost no way for alcoholism to not impact your children in some way. You should speak with your attorney about how your spouse’s drinking has affected or could affect the children and whether it is necessary to seek full custody.

If you want to ask for full custody based on your spouse’s alcohol use disorder, you may need to provide evidence of the illness and evidence that it is not in your children’s best interest to live with or spend considerable time with their other parent. Bear in mind that if your spouse seeks treatment for alcoholism now or in the future, they may be able to gain more time with the children.

Will Your Spouse Seek Spousal Maintenance?

If your spouse’s alcohol use affects his or her income or ability to work, making you the primary financial provider, then you may need to consider whether he or she will ask for spousal maintenance. If so, you may need to defend against the need to pay spousal maintenance. This could include trying to prove that your spouse could work or make more money were they not an alcoholic.

A DuPage Country Divorce Lawyer is Here to Help

Every family’s situation is unique. A spouse’s alcoholism may affect a divorce very little, while in other situations it could be pivotal to the outcome of parenting time and responsibilities. Before assuming how your spouse’s alcohol use will affect your divorce, speak with the experienced divorce attorneys of Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. at 630-961-0060.

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