Raleigh Divorce Lawyer Agrees with Study’s Findings on the Impact of Alcoholism on Marriages

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Throughout his experience as a divorce lawyer in North Carolina, attorney Charles R. Ullman says he has observed the devastating effect of alcohol and substance abuse on relationships and families.

Charles R. Ullman

Just based on my experience as a family law attorney in North Carolina, I have seen how alcohol and substance abuse place a strain on married couples and their children, and more often than not, those issues lead to divorce.

Raleigh divorce attorney Charles R. Ullman says he is not surprised by a recent study’s finding that alcoholism contributes to marriages dissolving.

According to the study, “Alcoholic Marriage: Later Start, Sooner End,” alcoholics are more than twice as likely as non-alcoholics to experience separation in a marriage.

“Just based on my experience as a family law attorney in North Carolina, I have seen how alcohol and substance abuse place a strain on married couples and their children, and more often than not, those issues lead to divorce,” said Ullman.

Ullman is the founding lawyer of Charles R. Ullman & Associates, a Raleigh law firm whose attorneys concentrate on family and domestic law matters, including divorce and separation, in Wake County and throughout North Carolina.

“In many cases, a couple will try everything they can – substance abuse counseling, marriage counseling and spiritual counseling – but the marriage ultimately can’t be saved. When that occurs, the alcoholism can become a factor in divorce-related matters such as separation, alimony and child custody,” the North Carolina divorce attorney said.

Indiana University professor Mary Waldron served as the lead author of the study, which is available online and will be published in the April 2011 journal, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

According to an Indiana University news release, the study is one of the first to examine the impact of alcohol dependence on marital transitions throughout the lifespan of an adult. It involved data from 5,000 Australian twins who were first assessed in the 1980s and interviewed again in the 1990s.

In addition to their marriages ending in separation or divorce, the alcoholics in the study entered marriage at later age. Waldron said the study shows that “if problem drinking continues, the likelihood of having a lasting marriage or marriage at all is greatly reduced.”

“North Carolina is a no-fault divorce jurisdiction. That means one party’s excessive drinking or drug use would not factor into obtaining an absolute divorce, which merely requires a showing that the divorcing North Carolina couple lived separate and apart for at least 12 consecutive months prior to the divorce,” Ullman said. “However, a spouse’s alcohol or drug abuse can be a factor in many other areas surrounding a divorce.”

According to the North Carolina divorce lawyer, a spouse’s alcohol or drug abuse can serve as a “fault-based” ground for obtaining a divorce from bed and board – a judicially ordered separation that gives the other spouse certain rights, such as the right to exclude the at-fault spouse from the marital home.

A North Carolina court may also consider alcoholism when awarding alimony and when determining whether a parent has the ability to serve as a caretaker for child custody purposes.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 17.6 million people in the U.S., or 1 in about every 12 adults, suffers from alcohol dependence.

“It’s a disease that affects many couples and families in North Carolina,” Ullman said. “The decision to end a marriage that involves an alcoholic spouse is a difficult one, and it’s important to work with an experienced North Carolina family lawyer when sorting through the sensitive legal issues that will arise after making that decision.”

About Charles R. Ullman & Associates
The North Carolina family law firm of Charles R. Ullman & Associates, located on 109 S. Bloodworth St. in Raleigh, N.C., focuses on family law and other domestic issues, including divorce, child custody, child support, visitation, alimony, post-separation support and equitable distribution. Ullman is a trained collaborative law attorney. For more information, call (919) 829-1006 or use the firm’s online form.

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