In Divorce Law

How to Prove Alcoholism in a Divorce

Habitual drunkenness is ground for divorce. Divorcing an alcoholic is tough, both emotionally and legally. The emotional difficulty stems from a long and hard effort to get a loved one help. The abuse, self-sabotage, neglect, and denial create major difficulties.

Legally, proving alcoholism / habitual drunkenness – including not only alcohol, but drugs as well – is not always easy.

image of proving alcoholism in divorce

Alcoholism is ground for divorcing in South Carolina, but you will need to provide evidence in order to prove it.

Proving Habitual Drunkenness

In South Carolina, alcohol abuse is one of four fault grounds for divorcing – the others are adultery, physical abuse, and desertion. Alternatively, couples can obtain a no-fault divorce after separating for a year. If you are divorcing an alcoholic and unable to prove it, this may be your only option.

In order to prove alcoholism, you must show the court your spouse has a problem and that the drinking/ drugs led to the breakdown in the marriage. It is often necessary to provide evidence such as police reports, admission to treatment facilities, and testimony from family or friends.

Divorce Laws in South Carolina

It’s easy know when alcohol abuse caused the breakdown of a marriage and when it did not. If a spouse has been to rehabilitation facilities to no avail, received multiple citations from the police department, there is evidence of daily drinking/ drugs, and they lost a job, then it’s pretty clear. On the other hand, the guy who drinks a few beers on the weekend is probably not guilty of habitual drunkenness under the laws of South Carolina.

What about between these two scenarios? When alcoholism comes up, it’s often not so black and white.

In all cases, it must be clear the marriage broke down because of drinking problems. Those involves “frequent and repeated intoxication by excessive indulgence in intoxicating liquor” or the abuse of other drugs like marijuana, prescription medication, opioids, cocaine, or any other illicit drugs.

It is not necessary to prove your spouse abused alcohol or drugs daily, just that it led to the breakdown of the marriage. Often, the veracity of the testimony or strength of evidence will play a strong role.

Tips for Divorcing an Alcoholic

  • Keep a record of all alcohol or substance abuse evidence,
  • Understand that your spouse’s substance abuse can impact child custody,
  • Your case may require an expert to testify,
  • You may need a protective order if you spouse becomes violent,
  • Use close friends or family as a resource, and if helpful seek counseling from a trained professional.

Understanding these things from the beginning will help you know what to expect and how to proceed.


All divorce is challenging, but divorcing involving alcoholism or substance abuse is particularly challenging. If you have done all you can to save your marriage, then a complete separation might be necessary. Only a divorce attorney can advise you regarding your options and rights. If you need help, please contact our office.

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