The Relationship Between Addiction And Divorce

One spouse’s addiction can place an incredible strain on any marriage. When one spouse has an addiction, whether it’s a problem with alcohol, drugs, gambling, or anything else, the other spouse suffers too. Divorce is fairly common in the United States, especially when addiction comes into the picture. Between 40% and 50% of first marriages end in divorce, and about 20% of both men and women in America have been divorced at least once in their lives.

The state of Nevada has the highest divorce rate, while the state of Iowa has the lowest; the average age of an American who gets a divorce is 30 years old. Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 also have some of the highest rates of drug addiction and overdose. Addiction, especially chronic substance abuse, is a common reason why marriages fail. In fact, according to some estimations, addiction is the most common cause of divorce after infidelity and abuse.

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How Addiction Can Destroy A Marriage

There are about 24 million married Americans who are either addicted or in a relationship with a person who is struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD). There are many ways that one spouse’s addiction can hurt the other spouse and erode the bonds of matrimony.

Loss Of Trust

Individuals with an addiction tend to lie to their spouses about the severity of their addictions, conceal how much money they spend to pay for them, and break promises to change their behavior. Over time, this dishonesty breaks the basic foundations of trust which are necessary in any relationship. Spouses who have addictions to sex or pornography might also commit adultery or be unfaithful, which is another breach of trust.

Financial Burdens

Furthermore, spouses with an addiction may spend too much money, waste savings, and even incur debt or sell property to pay for their habits. They could fall behind at work and lose their job, or they might commit crimes — such as theft and DUI — which may require posting bail and paying fines and legal fees. The financial consequences of addiction can be disastrous for a married couple, especially if they’re raising children.

Emotional Distress And Abuse

The daily life of being married to a person with an SUD can be an emotional ordeal. Spouses might feel overwhelmed by the pressure of caring for their partner who has an SUD. They could also be afraid that their spouse will behave dangerously or unreasonably. Worse yet, there is a correlation between substance abuse and domestic violence. When alcoholism corrupts a marriage, for example, the likelihood that one spouse will become the victim of domestic abuse increases significantly. Many cases of domestic violence involve alcohol and drugs. Domestic violence is the cause of death of about 1,000 women every year in the United States.

How Does Addiction Affect A Divorce Settlement?

Most people who ultimately get divorced consider the decision for an average of two years before they begin the process. Once a couple decides to end their marriage, the spouses and their lawyers will negotiate a settlement for custody, child support, alimony, and division of assets. If the terms of a settlement have to be determined in court, judges sometimes take addiction into consideration.

If the couple has children, a judge may award the non-addicted spouse full custody and deny the other parent any visitation rights. The judge may also grant the addicted parent visitation rights but require supervision and drug testing. Judges may also view the financial costs of addiction as grounds for reimbursement, so they sometimes order the spouse with a history of addiction to pay alimony and give the sober partner a greater share of the couple’s money and property.

All 50 states permit no-fault divorce, but in some states a person could also file for divorce on the grounds that their spouse struggles with addiction or substance abuse. The rules and procedures of divorce are different in each state, so anyone who is beginning the divorce process should consult a local attorney for professional legal advice.

Is Divorce Inevitable When One Spouse Has An Addiction?

Divorce is a difficult experience for the entire family. While addiction is a heavy burden on a marriage, and sometimes divorce may be the only answer, treatment for addiction can be an alternative solution for some married couples. With professional help and support from family and friends, a person who gets treatment can recover from addiction and potentially save their marriage.

There are many treatment centers throughout the country where users can detox from alcohol and drugs and get therapy and medical treatment. Many treatment centers offer family therapy. There are also addiction support groups for couples. A person with an addiction is more likely to recover when people they love and trust help and encourage them along the way. Spouses who engage with treatment as a team might even recommit themselves to one another in the process.

Most importantly, when a spouse has an addiction, giving up and doing nothing is the worst possible solution. Someone with an addicted spouse may believe they must either live with the addiction and hope it gets better or get divorced, but treatment is a better option. Addiction does not improve over time or self-correct. Anyone with an addiction can overcome it, but they need access to medically supervised detox, medication, and therapy at a rehab center.

Get Help Today For Your Spouse And For Yourself

If you or your spouse are considering getting a divorce on the grounds of a present addiction, consider an attempt at treatment first. For more information on online therapy options, click here.