Get a FREE Consultation: Call 262-788-5335
Wisconsin Family Law Articles
My spouse abuses alcohol: can we still settle our Wisconsin divorce case?

My Spouse Abuses Alcohol: Can We Still Settle Our Wisconsin Divorce Case?


  • When someone abuses alcohol, it can have a destructive impact on multiple aspects of their life.  Often, those closest to the alcohol abuser are the ones most hurt by their behavior. Depending on the severity of the situation, the individual's substance abuse may be the reason their marriage ends in divorce. If you are going through a Wisconsin divorce with someone who abuses alcohol, you may be thinking: My spouse abuses alcohol: Can we still settle our Wisconsin divorce case?


Assessing Your Circumstances


  •  Sometimes one person's idea of what constitutes alcohol abuse can vary significantly from another’s. You may think of your spouse as a substance abuser because they have one alcoholic beverage every night after work, while someone else may perceive this conduct as casual drinking. However, it may also be that your spouse has had multiple DUI arrests, has a history of day drinking, or frequently blacks out after consuming several alcoholic beverages. In this circumstance, it may be more reasonable to worry that your spouse is drinking at all.
  • Determining the extent of another person's addiction or substance abuse issues can be difficult, especially when you are emotionally involved. The issue can be further complicated by the fact that alcohol use is considered to be socially acceptable in many settings, especially in Wisconsin. One of the best ways to gain perspective regarding possible alcohol abuse and how it may impact your divorce is by consulting an experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney. You and your Wisconsin divorce attorney can discuss your concerns about your spouse's alcohol use and evaluate its potential impact on your case.


Alcohol Abuse and Your Divorce

  • Before moving forward with your case, it's essential to examine the ways in which your spouse’s use may be a factor in your divorce.
Alcohol Abuse and Children
  • If you have minor children, your ex's substance abuse could be a significant part of determining how your children will be cared for during and after your divorce. Wisconsin divorce courts will consider several factors when making decisions about a child’s legal custody and physical placement. During this process, the court’s evaluation can include whether one or both parents have substance abuse issues.
  • There may be circumstances when a Wisconsin divorce court will order that a parent undergo an evaluation with a substance abuse professional to determine if they have an alcohol abuse issue. Further, when there is a suspected alcohol abuse issue, a party can request that a parent be subject to ongoing alcohol testing to determine if they can safely be around their kids. Parents can also be ordered to refrain from using alcohol while their children are in their presence.
  • If you believe your ex's alcohol abuse is severe, you may want to petition for primary custody and physical placement. You may also want to request provisions requiring testing and limiting (or eliminating) your ex's alcohol use around your kids.
Alcohol Abuse and Property Division
  • Alcohol abuse may also be a factor in property division. Wisconsin is a community property state, and, in most circumstances, what a couple earns or acquires during the marriage belongs to them equally. However, when it can be shown that one spouse's conduct harmed the couple's community or shared interests, the court can consider awarding a disproportionate share of the couple’s assets to the injured spouse.


Your Spouse’s Alcohol Abuse and Settlement During Your Wisconsin Divorce


  • By its nature, addiction is complex and presents differently depending on the person. Therefore, the degree to which your ex’s alcohol abuse may be evident and impact your Wisconsin divorce settlement will depend on your circumstances as well as other factors. It may be that your ex’s alcohol abuse interferes with their ability to reason and accept responsibility. Your spouse may also be in denial about the extent of their substance abuse. If your ex does not believe they have a problem, they may be less willing to agree to divorce terms related to their substance abuse issues.
  • Generally, parties to divorce find that settlement is preferable to having a court make decisions about their lives. How much a party is willing to concede often depends upon what they believe could happen if they risk going to court. If there is strong evidence that your ex's alcohol abuse impacted your community property or presents a danger to your kids, your ex may see the benefit of settling. On the other hand, if the evidence of their substance abuse and its impact on the divorce is more subtle, there may be less room for negotiations.


Consult with an Experienced Wisconsin Family Law Attorney


  • The best way to determine how your ex’s alcohol abuse may impact your divorce settlement is by consulting with an experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney. You and your attorney can evaluate your circumstances and your case’s settlement potential. If you are considering filing for or are already involved in a Wisconsin divorce, you should contact Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law. She understands the complexities of going through a divorce when alcohol abuse is an issue and can help you identify the best options for your case. Come in, and let us take a “first look” at your situation so you can figure out your next steps. Please call us today to set up a time to meet.