Alcoholism and Divorce
The statistics regarding alcoholism are startling. According to the National Institute of Health, almost 6% of all adults had alcohol use disorder, which worked out to roughly 9.2 million men and 5.3 million women. In other words, almost 15 million adults in this country are struggling with alcohol addiction.
Alcoholism claims many lives, but it can be particularly damaging during a divorce. Below, one of our Media family law attorneys analyzes how information about a chemical addiction could come into play.
Alcoholism as Grounds for Divorce
Pennsylvania law provides many fault grounds, in addition to non-fault options like mutual consent and irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Technically, alcoholism is not listed as a ground for divorce, but it could be relevant if your spouse decides to divorce due to cruel treatment, under 23 Pa. C.S. § 3301(a)(3).
For example, a spouse who becomes violent or neglectful when intoxicated and, as a result, beats up their spouse or fails to provide a safe environment has engaged in cruel treatment. Simply being an alcoholic probably is not enough, but addiction in addition to physical endangerment could serve as a ground.
Alcoholism and Child Custody
Alcoholism is definitely more relevant in child custody cases. When custody is in dispute, a judge will need to assign custody, and judges do so by considering what is the best interests of the child. Here, a parent’s struggles with alcohol directly impact a child’s well-being.
For example, an alcoholic parent with a DUI poses a threat, especially if the child was in the car when the parent got picked up. But even if the parent has no criminal convictions, simply being an alcoholic does tend to pose a danger. A judge might worry whether an alcoholic parent will be neglectful of children, which can be just as damaging as abuse.
Judges look at many factors when deciding custody, so being an alcoholic does not immediately preclude you from becoming the child’s primary caregiver. However, it is definitely a high hurdle.
If you have an alcohol problem, then your attorney needs to know about it. Often, we can soften the blow by showing how our clients are working to overcome their addiction.
Ideally, a client will have entered a 12-step plan like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). If a client becomes violent when intoxicated, then attending an anger management course could also be helpful. Our clients should also keep detailed records of their attendance and how long they have been without drinking.
A judge wants to see tangible steps that a person is taking. Simply saying you have your drinking “under control” is not persuasive. Neither is a client who refuses to acknowledge that he or she has a drinking problem in the first place when there is substantial evidence that a problem exists.
Contact a Delaware County Divorce Lawyer for Assistance
In a contested divorce, all sorts of embarrassing information could be introduced into court. Now is the time to meet with an attorney to address how you will handle that information.
At Barbara Flum Stein & Associates, we understand the ravages of addiction and how they intersect with a divorce. For help with your case, please call us to schedule an initial consultation.