The mere idea of filing for divorce is a difficult concept for most people. We all want a happy marriage, and many people stay in marriages in hopes it will get better, out of fear of the unknown in the post-divorce future, or, commonly, for their children. In other cases, people must stay married for basic reasons, such as insurance coverage if he or she has a chronic condition and would lose coverage and be unable to get care and medicine without their spouse’s insurance. These may be valid reasons to stay married. However, in a few cases, the marriage is literally a ticking clock counting down to a catastrophic end, for one—or worse--both parties, as well as for the children. This blog identifies the three most common, acute situations where you should consider divorcing for self-preservation of yourself, your children and way of life.
One of the most common reasons where a party should seriously consider divorce as mandatory is with alcohol abuse. Obviously, the first recourse a spouse should consider is to seek the ways to facilitate sobriety. However, the statistical evidence many adults simply cannot stop drinking and, are, at best, functioning alcoholics. The financial costs and risks are tremendous for our society as a whole; the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism puts the cost of alcoholism in the United States at about 250 billion annually. Many spouses married to an alcoholic are so busy cleaning up the mess and operating in survival mode, they never consider the ultimate questions. “What is the cost of my spouse’s addiction?” These go far beyond the cost to the relationship.
Specifically, if you are in this situation, you must look deeper and consider the bigger picture to decide whether to stay or go. Ask yourself the following questions: “How does this impact my work?”, “What if my spouse has an auto accident while intoxicated and kills someone? Will I lose all I have from a lawsuit?”, “What impact does this have on my finances?” Although there are no specific rules, every person living with an alcoholic should look to and set a benchmark of when enough is enough and the personal risk to them is too great. You can always divorce, and still help your former spouse emotionally and financially. If you do not consider the bigger picture and seriously consider these questions, the answers may be made for you by the collateral consequences and impacts on your life caused by your spouse’s continued alcohol abuse. In asking these hard questions and honestly providing yourself with answers, you may well need to consult with a divorce attorney to know your options under Indiana divorce law and perhaps save yourself and your children.
On par with, or exceeding alcoholism, is drug addiction. Many times, the non-addicted spouse is the true victim and needs to leave the other spouse--and do so quickly. In Indiana, it is common knowledge that opioid abuse, as well as methamphetamine and heroin use, are at epidemic levels. If you are in this situation, recognize the chances of recovery are minimal and consider the consequences of staying. However, addiction often masks the questions you need to ask and the realities of the situation: “Will I become addicted if I stay?”, “What if I am arrested with my spouse for drug possession?” These questions are hard. But ask them while they are still questions, not your reality. However, the greatest toll is on children. A parent addicted to illicit drugs or who abuses prescription medications does not grasp the realities they face. An addicted spouse will often do anything to feed the addiction. Do you? This may include abandoning children to neglecting them to allowing them to be placed or left in an environment where they may be abused, neglected or molested. If you are in this situation—even if you are not using drugs but allowing the situation to endanger your children--you may have your children removed by DCS and be charged with criminal neglect yourself. In extreme cases, you and your spouse’s parental rights may be terminated and the children placed in foster care or adopted. If you cannot accept the answers to these questions or the realities of addiction, you too may face the countdown clock where you have little time to consider what to do to protect yourself, your family, and your children. This is the time to consider hiring a skilled divorce attorney.
The most challenging decision a spouse may face in considering a divorce is with a spouse who is mentally ill through no fault of their own. The statistics are sobering. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates one in six U.S. adults live with mental illness. Most often, a mental illness once identified, is managed through medication and/or therapy. Sometimes mental illness may not be evident but just present in an outward behavior—such as compulsive gambling. However, if your spouse refuses to seek treatment, and suffers a serious mental illness that is resistant to medication or therapy, you may face-saving yourself (and the children) and get on the proverbial lifeboat or go down with the ship. The impact of mental illness on the other spouse and children are hard to define. However, where spouse’s mental illness is unacknowledged or not well-treated, the same considerations exist as with alcoholism and substance abuse. Accepting and honestly assessing your situation is the key to making an action plan. Ask yourself the logical questions, “What are the financial consequences if I stay in the marriage?”, “What are the risks to the children?”, “Where will I be in five years if I stay in the relationship?” If you cannot answer those question, or accept the potential answers, it may be time to consider divorce.
A divorce driven by alcoholism, drug addiction, or mental illness is common. However, the isolation of these conditions often causes the non-addicted spouse to be so focused on the problem of confronting the other spouse, that they fail to see the reality of the addition and the impact on the marriage personally, financially, and socially. If these questions or outcomes are concerning, you should consider consulting a divorce attorney with an understanding of addiction and mental illness and its legal ramifications of staying married or divorcing. Aside from the noted impact on your family, there are many legal implications (other than DCS or criminal cases or bankruptcy) that you need to be aware of the can occur in a divorce the longer you stay married. For instance, you may be ordered to pay permanent spousal disability maintenance for the impaired spouse. Ask the hard questions. Know the statistics and outcomes and act.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys handle all types of divorces and have significant experience with the marital dynamics associated with addictions and mental illness. Do not let your clock run out of time. Make the decision whether to stay in the marriage before it is made for you by some catastrophic event. We practice throughout the State. This blog is provided for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.