Problem gambling can destroy a marriage and family. The National Council on Problem Gambling reports that, in 2008 between one quarter and one half of spouses of compulsive gamblers have been abused by their spouse/the compulsive gambler. Furthermore, a 2002 study of emergency rooms across the nation found that the rate of domestic violence increased by 10.5 times when the victim’s intimate partner was found to be a problem gambler. And one 2000 study found that problem gambling is as serious of a risk factor for domestic violence as alcohol abuse.
When you decide to divorce your spouse because of problem gambling, what role will your partner’s gambling habits (and the behaviors and results that flow from these habits) play in the divorce proceedings?
Is Gambling a Ground for Seeking a “Fault-Based” Divorce?
In Illinois, a divorce can be granted on grounds of irreconcilable differences (sometimes referred to as a “no-fault” divorce because no spousal wrongdoing needs to be shown or proven) or on one of several “fault” grounds. These include adultery, bigamy, and abandonment. There is no “fault” ground authorizing a divorce based on one spouse’s problem gambling. Gambling can perhaps lead to spousal abandonment (which must last for at least one year); absent such conduct, however, a divorce initiated because of your spouse’s gambling addiction will be filed and prosecuted as a no-fault divorce. This means that before you are able to divorce, you and your spouse must (1) live apart and separate for two years; or (2) live separate and apart for a period of six months and agree that irreconcilable differences exist and a divorce should therefore be granted.
Will Gambling Affect Any Other Decision the Court Makes as Part of the Divorce?
Your spouse’s gambling habits may affect child custody, child visitation, and alimony decisions. Child custody and visitation decisions are made based on the “best interest of the child,” as determined by the court. If your partner’s gambling addiction leads to other risky or harmful behavior like alcohol or drug abuse or an inability to provide for the basic needs of a child, the court may make custody and visitation determinations adverse to your spouse.
An alimony (or “maintenance”) award can also be impacted by one spouse’s gambling problems. In determining whether alimony is appropriate, a court is to consider a number of factors including “ contributions and services [made] by the party seeking maintenance” to the education or career advancement of the other spouse and any “impairment of the present and future earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance due to that party devoting time to domestic duties.” Thus, if your spouse’s gambling addiction forced you to forego employment or career opportunities in order to care for the home, or if you were required to help support your spouse’s career, you may be entitled to alimony.
Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney
If you have decided to divorce your spouse because of his or her gambling habits, be sure to consult with an experienced DuPage County family law attorney to protect your legal rights. You may be able to point to those gambling habits and the problems they create in order to obtain custody of your child and/or obtain an alimony award. Contact us today at 630-871-1002 and discuss your situation with one of our knowledgeable Illinois family law attorneys today.