Case Addresses Claims of Habitual Intoxication as Basis for Divorce

In an opinion recently issued by the South Carolina Court of Appeals, the justices considered the claims of a woman who alleged that she should be granted a divorce based on her husband’s habitual intoxication.

The case in question is Miteva v. Robinson. The case centers on a couple who were married in 2007 and who filed for divorce in 2011. The couple had no children together, but each had their own children from prior relationships. The wife claimed she should be granted a divorce on the basis of her husband’s use of alcohol and prescription drugs, and requested an equitable division of all marital property.

The wife argued that her husband’s years of unemployment were a symptom of his problematic drinking and use of prescription drugs. The husband responded to this allegation by claiming that, while he was laid off and subsequently unemployed for a period of their marriage, it was a change in management and not a drug problem that caused him to lose his job. The wife also cited numerous instances when she called the police to their home when the husband had allegedly “gone crazy” or otherwise threatened her safety. In each instance, however, she had sent the police away after they arrived, claiming that everything was fine. None of the resulting police reports mentioned alcohol or drunkenness. Significantly, the husband presented evidence that, during the period when he was alleged to be dealing with a crippling substance problem, the wife had written a note requesting that her husband care for her daughter should something happen to her. The husband also presented witnesses, including his ex-wife, daughter, and a friend of 25 years who all testified that they had never seen the man drunk.

South Carolina is one of the few remaining states that still allows divorces to be filed on the basis of fault on behalf of one of the spouses. Filing for divorce on the basis of fault permits couples to bypass the one year of separation required to file on a no-fault basis. One of the available faults is habitual drunkenness or drug use. In order to show that one spouse is responsible for the failure of a marriage due to this ground, South Carolina courts require that the accusing spouse prove that the “abuse of alcohol (or drugs) caused the breakdown of the marriage and that such abuse existed at or near the time of filing for divorce,” wrote the Court of Appeals in this case.

Due to the contested nature of the evidence presented by the wife and the credibility given to witnesses testifying for the husband and to the husband himself, the trial court concluded that the husband was not shown to have an alcohol or prescription drug problem which doomed the marriage to failure. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision not to grant a divorce on this basis, likewise finding the evidence credible and the family court’s reasoning on this issue to be sound.

If you’re struggling with a spouse who is a habitual alcohol or drug abuser, make sure to take cognizable steps to document that abuse.   Most importantly, don’t put yourself or your children at risk of harm by staying in a dangerous or risky relationship.  When facing divorce before a South Carolina family court, it is critical to ensure that you find an attorney you can trust to capably present your case using convincing documentary evidence and reliable testimony from credible witnesses. 

If you are facing a family law issue in South Carolina, such as a divorce or dispute over child custody, contact the experienced, compassionate, and effective South Carolina family law attorneys at The Cate Law Firm for a consultation, at 864-585-4226.

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