Article at a Glance:

  • Alcoholism is one of the top reasons why people seek a divorce.
  • Yes, alcoholism can be grounds for a divorce in states where at-fault divorces are legal, such as New York and Texas.
  • Even in states like California where there is no at-fault divorce filing, alcoholism can affect divorce-related rulings, such as child custody.
  • Alcoholism is not generally grounds for an annulment, but it can affect child custody.
  • Winning a child custody battle is very difficult as a parent who suffers from a substance abuse problem.

Is Alcoholism Grounds For Divorce?

Alcoholism is a serious, traumatic problem for families and for couples. Being married to someone who is an alcoholic can lead the other spouse to feel hopeless, depressed and alone. It can even turn into a situation where there is a cycle of abuse, particularly if the spouse abusing alcohol is prone to violence when drinking or experiences blackouts.

Alcoholism is one of the leading reasons people give for divorce in the U.S. In fact, it’s often one of the top three reasons, and that’s understandable. Alcoholism can diminish relationships to the point where they can no longer be salvaged.

It can turn someone from the spouse you once loved to a virtual stranger. Alcoholism and alcohol use disorder impact a marriage in so many ways, from the fact that people with substance abuse problems tend to tell lies and be secretive to cover their drinking, to the fact that it can be difficult for alcoholics to focus their attention outside of themselves in many cases.

It’s for all of these reasons that it’s not uncommon for people to wonder if alcoholism is grounds for divorce, or if alcoholism is grounds for annulment.

Marriage and substance abuse of any kind can be complicated, but the following is an overview that explains if alcoholism is grounds for divorce or annulment.

If you’re divorcing someone because of alcoholism or substance abuse problems, it may change the course not only of how the divorce proceeds, but it can also impact things like child custody.

All states allow for no-fault divorce grounds. This usually just means that two spouses don’t get along, and it doesn’t have to mean one spouse or the other did something to cause the divorce.

There are many states where you can also file for divorce based on fault including New York and Texas. Any number of reasons could indicate an at-fault divorce such as adultery, and also drug or alcohol abuse. So the short answer is yes, in states where there are at-fault divorces, alcoholism is grounds for divorce.

If you live in a state like California where there is no option aside from a no-fault divorce filing, there is still the opportunity to show evidence your spouse was an alcoholic if it pertains to other issues related to the divorce, including child custody.

It should be noted that if you’re introducing alcoholism as grounds for divorce in the at-fault sense, it can be difficult to prove in these cases. If you’re divorcing someone who is a moderate drinker, someone who occasionally binges on alcohol or even someone is a functioning alcoholic, it can be tough to introduce in the proceedings. Unless there are situations such as car accidents and hospital visits related to alcoholism, it can turn into he-said-she-said.

Also, if you married someone knowing they were an alcoholic and now want to use alcoholism as grounds for divorce, that’s not likely to hold up. In some states, if you knew your spouse had a drinking problem before the marriage, you can’t use it as grounds for divorce.

When it comes to not just alcoholism as grounds for divorce, but the dividing of assets, substance abuse may or may not be considered. Fault isn’t looked at during the division of marital assets, although general behavior patterns during the marriage may play a role in how property is divided in some states.

While alcoholism as grounds for divorce is tricky and not often the best legal route to take when divorcing someone with a substance abuse problem, child custody may be a different situation. Moderate drinking won’t necessarily impact custody, but courts will look at drinking including alcoholism that could be seen as diminishing the capability of the parent to take care of the children.

If one parent is an alcoholic or suffers from a substance abuse problem, winning child custody becomes more difficult.

If it is shown that a parent is an alcoholic or has a substance abuse problem, they may be required to have only supervised visits, or to receive treatment for their addiction.

So is alcoholism grounds for annulment?

An annulment is different from a divorce in the fact that it approaches the situation as if the marriage never happened. One of the reasons a person may obtain a civil annulment can include fraud or concealing something.

If you got married while you were intoxicated, this could serve as grounds for an annulment, however, alcoholism, in general, isn’t necessarily grounds for annulment.

To sum up, in some ways alcoholism is grounds for divorce in the legal sense, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be shown as why you’re getting divorced in most states since they all have the no-fault option. Alcoholism isn’t grounds for annulment, but it can play a role in child custody.

Despite the fact that alcoholism may not necessarily play a big role in the legal proceedings of a divorce (although it can depending on the situation), that doesn’t mean you should speak to a legal professional if you’re considering divorce from someone who is an alcoholic. It’s often a very toxic environment, and unless the other person is willing to take steps to help themselves, there’s very little you can do as the spouse.

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