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When Addiction Leads To Divorce

Posted on March 24, 2020

After tobacco, alcohol and drug addiction are the two most common substance addictions in Canada, with alcohol abuse significantly outweighing all other forms.

Most adults with dependency are able to function much the same as anyone else, holding down jobs and relationships but there can be a gradual transition from dependency to addiction or a significant life event that triggers a change.

It’s difficult to understand how the person you married has suddenly become reliant on something to get them through life when they were seemingly fine beforehand.

The reasons for someone becoming an addict are varied and still far from being completely understood, even by professionals.

In the case of alcoholism, for example, ‘Addiction Center’ talks about complex factors that may increase the risk of addiction such as their exposure to alcohol growing up and whether they suffer from mental health issues.

Addiction of any kind is serious and needs the correct treatment. If the addicted person can recognize this and seek help, then there could be a chance of saving the marriage before the situation worsens.  

The Cost of Addiction

The person you married will almost certainly change after developing an addiction, eventually breaking the bonds that once brought you together. The behavior of an addict may be irrational and have many implications on marriage and family life…

Financial Burdening 

The financial consequences of addiction can be severely damaging to the household finances and if the marriage does end in divorce, there could be very little left to support an ex and children.

An addict may squander life savings, sell joint assets or build up debts to support their habit and their work may start to suffer resulting in job loss and further financial hardship for the entire family.

Emotional & Physical Wellbeing

Trying to support a spouse with addiction is a daily struggle. There’s a constant worry about where they are and what they might do and this can take a huge toll emotionally. Then there’s the concern over the effect the situation is having on your children and how best to care for them whilst also being there for your husband or wife.

For an addict that’s not ready to deal with the problem, it might be that anger issues arise as they lash out at those closest to them and in some circumstances this anger can lead to a greater risk of domestic abuse.

Breakdown of Trust

Relationships are based on trust and ultimately the addiction causes a person to act in ways that destroy their spouses’ trust in them. This includes dishonesty about money, their willingness to change and sometimes even crime and adultery as the addiction takes over and clouds their judgment.

Whether a marriage can survive depends on whether the couple can work through these issues of trust that are an inevitable part of living with addiction.   

Calling Time On Your Marriage

Although it’s entirely possible to overcome addiction with the right professional help and support, the strain and hurt caused by dealing with it over many years may cause irreversible damage and many couples will still make the decision to start their lives afresh and opt for divorce.

For legal advice on your options in a similar situation, reach out for a free consultation with one of our family lawyers.

If you’re seeking help for yourself or a family member, there are many services available in Ontario, both private and government-funded, medical and non-medical. 

The wealth of options can be confusing to navigate and so long as the situation is not critical, an appointment with your family doctor may be a sensible first step.


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