Contemplating a divorce is never an easy task, but when the spouse is an alcoholic, circumstances become even more complicated. Due to Virginia’s no-fault divorce laws, there’s no requirement to prove the other person’s alcoholism in order to file. But if alcohol misuse negatively impacted your marriage, and you have evidence for it, this information may influence a judge’s decision regarding aspects such as finances, child custody, and no-contact orders.
Here are four key factors to consider when filing for divorce. An experienced divorce attorney will establish the foundation of effective proceedings that can hopefully allow you and your family to move forward in life.
Is Alcoholism Really a Concern?
Yes. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), approximately 14.1 million people suffer from substance abuse or dependence in the U.S., and the most commonly used addictive substance in the country is alcohol. In addition to this, several million people engage in risky, binge-drinking behaviors.
Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD) is recognized by the NIAAA as a treatable but incurable brain disease. Unfortunately, only about 10–15 percent of people with the disorder seek treatment.
The Impact of Alcoholism on a Marriage and Family
Researchers at the University of Michigan studied more than 17,000 people in 2014. They found that nearly half of those with a history of alcoholism had gone through a divorce—compared to only a third of individuals without alcohol problems—primarily because ongoing alcohol abuse deteriorates communication channels.
Many judges are aware of the adverse effects of alcohol on an individual’s behaviors and capabilities including:
- Difficulties with anger and impulse control
- Decreased self-control
- Impaired decision-making
- A decline in mental and emotional health
- Inconsistent moods
- Difficulty concentrating
- Driving while under the influence
- Decreased motivation
- Impaired physical abilities
Any of these factors can negatively affect a marriage. Unfortunately, relationships comprised by a spouse with AUD frequently have additional challenges to deal with including, but not limited to:
- Financial difficulties, either as a direct result of someone’s addictive behavior or due to unstable employment or job loss
- High levels of personal and professional stress
- A breakdown in communication
- A spouse concerned about their wellbeing and that of their children
In some cases, individuals struggling with AUD can develop even more severe problems, such as blackouts, violent outbursts, and emotional, mental, physical, or sexual abuse of partners, children, family members, and others.
Never stay in a marriage when there’s an imminent threat of or actual violence. Seek immediate assistance from law enforcement and domestic abuse prevention organizations.
Divorcing an Alcoholic: Child Custody
Courts make decisions about child custody after considering the children’s best interests. A judge takes a parent’s alcoholism into account in custody determinations as well and may mandate other initiatives, such as:
- Limited interaction with the child
- Supervised visitation
- Court-ordered addiction rehabilitation
If a parent with AUD has tried rehabilitation before but suffered multiple relapses, or refuses to admit there’s a problem and seek treatment, these actions affect child custody and visitation arrangements, too.
A judge normally doesn’t prioritize or have the power to act on many of the concerns raised during traditional divorce proceedings. But if you and your legal counsel present strong evidence as to how addiction is damaging the marriage and potentially placing children in harm’s way, the court will follow through with protective measures.
How Can the Right Lawyer Help You?
You’re struggling every day, not only with the recent decision to divorce an alcoholic spouse but also with what you’ve had to tolerate in an unhealthy relationship. It’s only natural to feel depressed, fearful, and hopeless.
Choosing a compassionate, knowledgeable divorce attorney is your and your family’s first step toward freedom and healing. When deciding to pursue a divorce, it’s always good to know what support is available, as well as your rights and legal options. Here are just a few critical talking points to cover during your initial consultation:
- Be honest about how the situation has developed, and how it’s deteriorated.
- Also, admit to any role you have possibly played by enabling addiction for the sake of keeping peace in the marriage.
- If the state requires a legal separation for a period of time.
- If your spouse is the family’s primary financial support, ask specific questions about the possibility of alimony, child support, and additional monetary recovery.
- What recourse you have to ensure the safety of you and your family.
Do You Need To Speak To A Virginia Divorce Attorney?
If you are considering divorce you need to speak with an experienced Virginia divorce attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Fairfax, Virginia law office at 703.277.2811 to schedule your free consultation. We help clients throughout Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia and look forward to helping you.
Attorney Richard MacDowell understands the pivotal point you’ve reached. He’s created a free e-book that may help: Prepare For A Brighter Future: Your Ultimate Divorce Planning Checklist. Request your free digital download by filling out this form, and we’ll immediately email you a copy.