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Navigating Alcoholism and Divorce

  • Alcoholism can strain relationships, leading to breakdowns in trust and respect, financial issues, and even physical or verbal abuse.
  • While alcohol abuse itself is not grounds for divorce in Ontario, it may contribute to other issues such as cruelty, which can be legally recognized.
  • In cases of alcohol abuse, particularly when it poses a danger, it's crucial to seek legal counsel for guidance on protecting oneself, especially if children are involved, and to understand legal options and rights in divorce proceedings.
Husband trying to connect with wife on sofar

Legal Insights and Strategies for Ontario Couples

Alcoholism is a widespread problem that impacts numerous families in Ontario and throughout Canada. It is not unusual for a spouse who suffers from alcohol addiction to create difficulties in their relationship. Alcohol can contribute to the breakdown of trust and respect between partners, cause significant financial issues, and in severe cases, can lead to physical or verbal abuse.

Alcohol and Divorce in Ontario

Generally speaking, spouses claim for divorce under one of the three grounds in Canada: cruelty, adultery, and separation.

In Ontario, alcohol abuse is not a legal ground for divorce. However, suppose the abuse of alcohol further turns into more severe issues, such as cruelty or other forms of abuse. In that case, a spouse may have a claim under the heading of cruelty.

Unfortunately, although physical cruelty and abusive behaviour may be evident, case law has shown the mental effects of living with an alcoholic are not as easy to define and prove to a court.

If you are facing difficulties in a marriage with someone who has an issue with alcohol abuse, it is advisable to seek legal counsel from a family lawyer. An initial consultation with a lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options and provide you with important legal advice.

What you should do if you are subject to alcohol abuse

If your partner behaves dangerously or violently when under the influence of alcohol, it would be wise to take measures to protect yourself before you begin to pursue your decision to divorce. For example, in the case of physical abuse, you may consider obtaining a restraining order and removing yourself and/or your children from the matrimonial home to ensure your safety. It is important to be fully prepared in the event your partner reacts strongly to the information.

Alcohol abuse and children

In a divorce case that involves children, the court's top priority is to ensure that the best interests of the child are met. The court works to determine the best possible solution for the child's well-being. This involves considering several factors to come to a conclusion about what is in the child's best interests. If one parent has a history of irresponsible behaviour and an inability to control their actions when under the influence of alcohol, the court will take that into account when making its decision.

It is not uncommon for a court to order visitation or joint custody of children with conditions such as regular testing or documentation of efforts to stop drinking.

In the most severe cases, access to a child or children can be in a scenario where it occurs in a supervised manner or in even more stringent circumstances, visitation is halted until the parent can get a hold of the alcohol abuse.

If you or someone you know are going through a difficult marital situation involving alcohol abuse or alcoholism, please get in touch with us at 905-215-1905 for helpful legal advice that can help during this stressful period.