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How Alcohol Addiction Can Impact Your New Jersey Divorce Case

Man drinking alcohol

Alcohol addiction and abuse can have a substantially destructive impact on a marriage, and is a commonly-cited factor in New Jersey divorce cases.

Research has shown those in marriages wherein one or both suffers from alcohol abuse disorder tend to have less fulfilling sexual relationships, be more emotionally detached, unreliable and irresponsible with money, have more problems at work, be plagued with physical health problems and take less care in their physical appearance. Any of these can damage a relationship. If you share children, it can be that much more heartbreaking.

Addiction to alcohol is a serious and persistent problem in New Jersey and across the U.S. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 26 percent of adults (and nearly 30 percent of men) reported engaging in binge drinking at least once in the past month. In one study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, nearly 1 in 8 Americans is an alcoholic - and that was prior to the pandemic, when many experts agree substance abuse and addiction rates increased. People with addictions don’t exist in bubbles, and their actions impact every person in the family.

As East Brunswick divorce attorneys, we recognize there are many ways alcohol abuse not only serves as a catalyst for divorce, but can impact many facets that require resolution before dissolution. Some of these include: Child custody, child support, alimony, division of assets and more.

How New Jersey Divorce Courts Factor Alcohol Addiction

Even when people addicted seek help and get sober, the marriage may not be salvageable. The length of a person’s sobriety can be a significant factor in how key matters are decided in family Court. For example, the Court may be far less inclined to award joint custody when one parent has only been sober a couple months, versus one who has been sober several years by the time the case is heard.

  • Substance abuse can be cited as grounds for a fault-based divorce per N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2. Under that provision, one may cite grounds for divorce as voluntarily induced addiction or habitation to any narcotic drug or sustained drinking problems for a minimum of 12 consecutive months. It should be noted that one does not need to cite any fault-related grounds to obtain a divorce. Instead, the person filing for divorce can simply cite irreconcilable differences. If your spouse is an alcoholic, there may be some advantages to filing for a fault-based divorce, but those should be discussed with your attorney.
  • Child custody agreements may be impacted. Child custody is determined on the basis of what is in the best interests of the child(ren). A parent’s current or past substance abuse may result in the Court choosing to award custody to the other parent. The Court may decide parenting time should be supervised, particularly if there is any indication the child was neglected, endangered or abused while the parent was impaired.
  • Credibility of a person with an alcohol problem may be affected. Family law judges are given a great deal of discretion in deciding these cases. Your credibility is central to them finding your condition compelling. Because alcohol addiction adversely affects not only physical health but memory, cognitive function, behavior, and personality, the Court may take that into account when deciding whether to believe that person’s version of events.
  • An alcoholic spouse may be awarded less in equitable distribution. If the Court finds that marital funds or assets were spent or squandered to feed the addiction of one spouse, he or she may receive less of the remaining assets.

Substance abuse is frequently accompanied by other issues, such as dishonesty, neglect, domestic violence, irresponsibility with finances and emotional/mental health issues. These may all become factors in how the divorce settlement is written.

Of course, it is possible that one spouse may overstate the alcohol consumption of another to try to gain an unfair advantage. It is important that no matter which side you’re on in this situation, you contact an experienced East Brunswick divorce lawyer to protect your rights and fight for your best interests.

Contact our East Brunswick divorce attorneys today at (732) 810-0034 to schedule an appointment.

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