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Divorce and Alcohol

By:  Curtis Wiberg

We’ve previously written about legal strategies when in the midst of divorce proceedings when one spouse is struggling with a drug or alcohol problem and its affect on a custody case. This article discusses alcohol abuse and dependency in general, tips for saving a marriage (if possible), and resources if those attempts fail.

According to a recent study, alcohol is the most abused drug in the country. One study states that 1 in 12 Americans suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence. That staggering statistic obviously impacts many marriages, and a fair number of divorces that Denver divorce attorneys might deal with.

Part of the difficulty with alcoholism is knowing when your spouse has crossed the line from social drinker to abuser. Is your spouse exhibiting a compulsion to drink, unable to abstain, exhibiting symptoms of alcohol dependence like nausea, shakiness, or anxiety, or acting dangerously or impulsively when drinking? If so, it may behoove you to discuss your concerns with your spouse and determine if an alcohol assessment is appropriate.

This issue can be difficult to address, as the spouse may deny having a problem, be dishonest, squander marital assets, and neglect his/her responsibilities, including to the children. There may even be endangerment if the spouse drives with the children or is unable to be available for the children during an emergency. The issues with the children need to be immediately addressed with a family law attorney for the protection of the children, even if you are ultimately hoping for reconciliation and forgiveness.

Alcohol abuse by one spouse has been shown to cause a significant increase in the rate of divorces among married couples, with 48 % of married couples with one spouse having an alcohol use disorder dissolving their marriages versus just 30% of couples with a spouse not afflicted by an alcohol use disorder seeking a divorce.

So what can you do if your marriage is seriously compromised by your spouse’s alcohol abuse? First, we’d recommend that you ensure that you and your children are safe. Forgiveness, treatment are all encouraged, but not if the alcohol abuse is a trigger for spousal or child abuse, neglect, drinking and driving, financial riskiness, and the like. If there is an imminent threat of danger to you or your children, seek the counsel of a family law attorney, or if it’s an emergency, call the police.

If the alcoholism isn’t posing an imminent threat to you or your children, however, and you are interested in preserving the relationship, then by all means seek counseling, encourage your spouse to enter alcohol treatment, attend support groups and follow the recommendations of a qualified professional.

Unfortunately, however, your spouse may not be ready or desirous of breaking free from his/her addiction, or the dynamics of your relationship may have been irreparably harmed. A divorce may be the only logical next step. In such cases, having a qualified Denver divorce attorney to address the issues from your spouse’s alcohol abuse, both in the context of custody issues as well as minimizing damage to your fair share of the marital property and preserving your rights to appropriate support are necessary.

Alcohol abuse is a major national health issue. One consequence is ruined marriages. If your marriage is affected by alcohol abuse, it’s important to consult with a family law attorney for guidance on what your appropriate next steps are.

Author Photo

Stephen Plog, co-founder of Plog & Stein, P.C. in 1999, is a dedicated family law attorney with almost two decades of expertise in Denver. Focused exclusively on family law since 2001, he excels in both intricate legal writing and courtroom litigation, having navigated cases in all Denver metropolitan area District Courts. Steve’s comprehensive background, including a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a law degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law, underscores his commitment to providing insightful and personalized representation in family law matters.