When can Alcoholism be Grounds for Divorce?

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Young man and woman planning with professional consultant.

Young man and woman planning with professional consultant. Couple sitting on sofa and holding hands together.

Alcoholism can be tragic for a family. In Alabama, serious alcohol abuse can be grounds for filing for divorce. However, it is important to put the situation in perspective and fully assess the problem before rushing to file for divorce. If indeed your spouse is a chronic and habitual alcoholic, then you certainly have the right to file a petition to dissolve the marriage on this basis. There are other options and considerations, however.


Alcoholism in Alabama

A research study from the Centers for Disease Control released in 2014 illustrates just how significant of a health risk alcohol can be. According to the findings, 2,445,322 Americans die from alcohol-related causes each year. Of course, this number includes everything from Cirrhosis to auto accidents. Alabama ranked 17th on the list, meaning the state ranks among the more at-risk states in terms of alcohol consumption.

Sadly, alcohol can play a role in health problems, depression, and job loss. Many people forget that alcohol abuse can also be a significant reason for many marriages failing. How bad is the problem? The data is tough to nail down, but researchers in New York believe they have an estimate.


How Many Marriages End Due to Alcohol?

 The Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) out of the University at Buffalo performed a series of research studies aimed at determining the scientific and statistical connections between alcoholism and divorce. The study defined “heavy alcohol use” in a marriage as a marriage in which a male partner drinks 14 or more drinks per week and where a female partner drinks at least 10 per week. Marriages where both spouses drank heavily were rare, coming in at only 4% of all marriages surveyed. Of the marriages where a heavy drinker was present in the marriage, 12% were men and 5% were females.


Times When Using Alcohol as a Ground for Divorce May be Appropriate

 When you allege “grounds” in Alabama, you must publicly allege in a court document that your spouse is guilty of one of the following:

  • Physical incapacity
  • Adultery
  • Pregnancy at the time of marriage that was not known to a partner
  • Imprisonment for at least two years (the sentence must be at least seven years long)
  • Crimes against nature
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Insanity for at least five years
  • Domestic violence

By alleging grounds, one can avoid certain delays and waiting periods. If the spouse with an alcohol problem refuses to admit the problem or you suspect he or she will refuse to get help, sometimes bringing the problem to the attention of the court can serve as a strong catalyst for getting help. Judges have broad discretion to order parents to seek alcohol counseling and treatment as a condition of visitation or continued joint custody.


Should You Always Allege Grounds?

 Not necessarily. In many cases you can accomplished many of your goals by pursuing a so-called “no fault” divorce without making negative allegations against your spouse. For instance, if your spouse shows strong signs of alcohol abuse but has a high-paying and successful career, you may wish to avoid publicly airing the problem, so as not to damage his or her employment prospects, which could in turn affect the individual’s ability to pay adequate child support and alimony. Instead, with the assistance of a skilled attorney, you may be able to reach a private agreement that would achieve the same effect.


Compassionate Divorce Help Near You

 If you are facing a divorce in Birmingham or the surrounding parts of Alabama, you should know that one size does not fit all. Each divorce case is different, and the attorneys of Five Points Law Group are here to help when you need us. Call or visit us online to schedule a private consultation with one of our experienced divorce attorneys today.

Heather Fann
Heather Fann
Heather's practice seeks to preserve the dignity of clients through healthy paths for their changing families, employing both modern and traditional means of resolution including collaborative practice and methods such as use of Parenting Coordinators, as well as mediation, though she stands ready to litigate where necessary.

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