Wives’ Drink Problems Cited in One-Third of Divorces 

Published on 21 March, 2017 | Back to News/Press

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A growing number of British marriages are imploding amid allegations of wives’ drinking problems.

One of the country’s leading family law firms has reported that just under one-third of all divorces brought on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour now involve claims of women abusing alcohol.

Laura Gullion, a lawyer with Hall Brown Family Law, said that greater opportunities for work-related drinking was a “significant” factor in such complaints doubling over the course of the last three years.

She added that some husbands who were reluctant to draw attention to wives’ drinking were being pressured into ending marriages by their mothers.

“Men are more likely than women to be accused of having an alcohol problem but the frequency with which wives’ drinking has been cited in divorce petitions over the last few years is marked.

“It’s unusual to find alcohol as the only issue causing couples to part but it can be one of those factors with a corrosive effect, leading to things such as arguments, assaults or excessive spending.

“In quite a few cases, husbands have sought to suggest that difficulties arise because of their partners’ opportunities to drink in connection with their work – taking lunches with colleagues or networking with clients.

“Some believe that their relationships might even have overcome these problems if they hadn’t had children. Ironically, it is for that reason that husbands are often keen to avoid emphasising their wives’ problems, so as to avoid children themselves being stigmatised.

“There are mothers-in-law, however, who feel that their sons need to divorce women who develop a drinking habit, particularly if it endangers the well-being of children or grand-children.”

Ms Guillon’s comments follow the publication of figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in December which showed that just over 111,000 couples divorced during 2014.

Whilst divorces granted to women on grounds of husbands’ unreasonable behaviour continued to fall, more men successfully petitioned for marriages to be legally ended because of their wives’ conduct. Such cases now amount to 14 per cent of all divorces.

Ms Guillon described how one husband reported tiring of repeatedly having to make excuses to family and friends following occasions on which his wife had passed out at home after drinking to excess.

She added that whilst another husband had regarded his wife’s drunkenness as relatively acceptable before they had children, he decided to divorce her because the behaviour continued thereafter and he felt became more serious as it placed them at risk.

Ms Guillon said most husbands were distressed that marriages ended due to tensions caused by their spouses’ drinking, although others considered that there were financial benefits of not highlighting the issue.

She also outlined how husbands who have drink problems felt that they were more likely to be dealt with more severely than wives in a similar predicament.

“They argue that courts will adopt a more rigorous and critical position when it comes to their drinking than women, making them clear more hurdles in order to have free and unsupervised access to children, for instance.

“Despite their wives’ problems, many husbands are determined to try to play down the true effect of alcohol and consider that such women deserve compassion, especially if they are the mothers of their children.

“Some men are more calculated and reckon that by pointing out that alcohol has rendered their wives incapable of supporting themselves and holding down a job, they may be asked to contribute more substantial amounts by way of maintenance and so prefer to keep quiet instead.”

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