The correlation between divorce and alcohol addiction or any other type of addiction can be complex. On the one hand, being married to an addict can be a stressful and at times even dangerous situation. There is also the fear that confronting their addicted spouse can lead that individual to spiral even more out of control and potentially become even more of a danger to themselves or their spouse.
On the other hand, divorcing a spouse who is suffering from addiction can be viewed as a cop-out by individuals who may not understand the severity of the issue. Some people might feel that they are abandoning their partner at a time when they need them most and are breaking the vow of “in sickness and in health” and “‘till death do us part”. On the opposite side of that, there are situations where, as a result of a divorce a person might turn to drugs or alcohol to help numb the proverbial pain of the divorce, which could lead to an addiction.
Can Addiction Lead To Divorce?
Unfortunately, over 20 million Americans who are married are dealing with addiction in some form. Some of them are suffering from addiction, while others are married to someone who is suffering from either addiction or a substance abuse issue. When a person’s addiction results in a divorce, there tend to be many different contributing factors. A few of those contributing factors include:
- Financial struggles
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Loss of trust
People who suffer from addiction tend to deal with financial problems. This is largely due to the fact that they start spending more and more money on whatever it is that they are using. In the process, they may neglect to pay for other necessities like food, rent, their mortgage, and any other things that they need to live. They also might lose their job as a result of their addiction.
All these factors can lead to them going into debt. When this happens, it could result in a level of desperation that ends with committing a crime. Financial issues due to addiction will affect both the struggling individual and his or her spouse. If it becomes severe enough, the spouse might see no other solution but to file for divorce to ease some of the financial burdens.
Emotional and/or Physical Abuse
In addition to the possible financial problems that arise, many people who suffer from addiction are not in the right frame of mind while they are battling addiction. This is often due to the chemical imbalance in their brain that is caused by the substance or substances that they are abusing.
Seeing your loved one behave in a manner that is not normally the way they behave can be incredibly stressful and unsettling for a spouse of an addict. Unfortunately, it can also result in either emotional abuse, physical abuse, or both. In fact, the likelihood of there being a domestic violence incident increases significantly if one or both of the partners suffer from some sort of substance abuse issue.
Loss of Trust
As a result of their addiction, addicts may become dishonest. They might lie about their substance use or make it seem like it’s not as big of a problem. They might be dishonest about spending money on substances. Also, they might lie about things they are doing or people they are meeting up with to conceal what they are doing.
Unfortunately, all this dishonesty can lead to the breaking of the trust bond that married people have. When the person gets caught in one of these lies, it makes the other person question their entire marriage as a whole and also makes them wonder what else their spouse might have been lying about in the past. When that sacred bond of trust is broken, it can be very difficult to repair.
Can Addiction Affect a Divorce Settlement?
In many cases, once the decision has been made that a marriage can no longer be salvaged, the next step is to file for a divorce. After this happens, the lawyers for each side will meet to discuss the terms of the divorce including financials, alimony, division of assets, and, if the couple has children, custody, and child support payments. If an agreement can’t be made amicably, the divorce proceedings can sometimes go to court. In the event that a divorce settlement goes to court, and one of the people is suffering from addiction, it is possible for the judge to take that addiction into consideration when making his or her ruling.
For example, if the couple has children, the judge might favor the non-addicted spouse when awarding custody of the child or children. The judge might also grant visitation or partial custody to the spouse who is suffering from addiction but require supervision or regular drug testing as a condition. The judge might also take into account the previous financial burdens caused by the addicted spouse when deciding things like alimony or ways to split up the assets.
How Do I Leave An Addicted Spouse?
While divorce is never an easy decision to make, divorcing an addicted spouse comes with a very unique set of challenges. Here are some things that you can do if you are considering leaving an addicted spouse.
Find A Lawyer Who Specializes in Substance Abuse Cases
Since divorcing a spouse with a substance abuse issue comes with it unique situations, it is important to find a lawyer who has experience dealing with substance abuse cases. They will know what legal rights you have as it pertains to your spouse suffering from addiction and will be able to present to you the various options that you will have.
The lawyer will explain to you how your spouse’s substance abuse might affect the outcome and plan a safe exit strategy for both you and your children (should you have any). They will also work with you on building your case and help with gathering evidence to show how your spouse’s addiction has affected your marriage.
Find a Safe Place
As you can imagine, once your spouse is informed that you are leaving them, it is likely that things won’t go well. They will likely react in a negative way, leaving your current living situation uncomfortable or potentially even unsafe. Before formally filing for divorce it might be beneficial to find new living arrangements so you have a safe place to go after the divorce has been filed.
Have a Support System
Going through a divorce takes a significant emotional toll on all parties involved. From a mental health and well-being standpoint, having a support system to help you through the process is crucial. This support system can be made up of friends, family members, or loved ones. It might also be beneficial to seek out a professional to talk to like a therapist or counselor.
Are You Dealing with Divorce and Addiction?
Divorce can be a stressful time for anyone. Dealing with divorce and addiction can be even worse. At New Directions for Women, we understand the complications that can arise when substance abuse is involved. Whether you are the one suffering from addiction or you have a spouse that is suffering, we are here to help. We offer a variety of programs for women who are suffering from addiction and those impacted by a loved one’s addiction. For more information about our treatment programs contact us today.