The Rhode Island Divorce Coach, Can I Really Help? PART 2
Advice from The Rhode Island Divorce Coach: Children Should Not Be Collateral Damage!

Coach, I have to Divorce my Addicted Wife! What can I expect from the Rhode Island Family Court?

Unfortunately the question in the title doesn't say it all.  It's a little too broad but I'll try to tackle major issues just the same.

Addictions come in many forms.  There are alcoholics (alcohol addictions), gambling addictions, prescription drug addictions, and illegal narcotic additions to name the major forms most prevalent in the Rhode Island Family Court System today.

The addiction is unclear in this question by a caller that I received some time ago.  It's fairly general and unfortunately the circumstances dictate what can be expected from the court based upon the type and nature of the addiction.

Let's assume for the sake of this article that we are dealing with the most common addiction I've experienced in the past 10 years as a Rhode Island divorce lawyer, namely alcoholism.

The Rhode Island Family Court has an official policy that recognizes alcoholism as a treatable illness and does not take a prejudicial stance against the alcoholic based upon the alcoholism or the failure either to receive treatment or to succeed at treatment.

Alcoholism and its existence in one spouse in a marriage create an interesting challenge for the family court judges.  Though alcoholism falls under a specific policy of the Rhode Island Family Court System as compared to other addictions which essentially does not penalize the alcoholic spouse simply for being an alcoholic, this is not a "get out of jail free card" so to speak to let the alcoholic off the hook to conduct him or herself in any manner he or she may choose. 

Actually, to the contrary Rhode Island Judges are bound to consider the conduct of the parties during the course of the marriage.  While the alcoholism is considered a treatable illness, this does not excuse any actions of the alcoholic parent which may have caused damage to the marital finances or the marital relationship.  A Rhode Island judge is still bound to consider the actions of the alcoholic spouse in contravention of the marital covenant. 

Thus, if an alcoholic spouse causes severe physical abuse to the other spouse which causes the degradation and ultimate breakdown of the marriage the Rhode Island family court judge may (and should) consider the severity of the conduct of the alcoholic spouse not withstanding his or her ability to get treatment.  In fact, the court's consideration would be reasonable if the spouse acknowledged their alcoholism but refused treatment before the exisence of additional underlying actions by the alcoholic spouse that substantially contributed to the breakdown of the marriage.

It is best to consider that the Rhode Island Family Court judge will give precedence to the policy of the Rhode Island Family court system.  However, it is all too easy to rely on the court's policy and leave it at that.  Whether you have a divorce lawyer or your are acting on your own behalf it is best to keep in mind the destructive effects of addictive behavior on your marriage and the availability of help, counseling or other action by the addictive individual that might have prevented conduct by the addicted spouse that was destructive to the marriage.  There is nothing harmful or improper about calling this content and context to the court's attention in your divorce in order to make an argument for a disproportionate share of the division of the marital assets or a lesser apportionment of the marital debts.

Remember, that while alcoholic addiction is understood as a treatable illness by the court, it does not necessarily excuse the destructive conduct of a spouse who had opportunity to take advantage of treatment for alcoholism before and refused that treatment before all or part of the marriage destroying behavior occurred. 

Ultimately, the court is empowered to consider the conduct of the parties during the course of the parties' marriage.  If an alcoholic refuses available treatment and thereafter engages in behavior that is destructive to the marriage, the policy of the family court that alcoholism is a treatable illness is negated by the known availability of such treatment, the refusal of treatment, followed by the damaging actions to the marriage.  The conduct should then be considered by the court for purposes of apportioning the assets and debts of the marriage.

In the end, unless you keep this in mind and make the argument, the Rhode Island Family Court Judged is likely to take the position of the Rhode Island family court's policy and leave it at that. 

Remember, if you are not your own best advocate, don't expect anyone else to advocate better for you (even if you have a lawyer) after all... who's life is and future is at stake here... yours or your attorneys.

in another article positing I will address the other addictions you and the court might face and how each might me treated in turn.

Authored By:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Attorney-at-Law

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