Proving Habitual Drunkenness in a South Carolina Divorce

Habitual drunkenness is grounds for divorce in South Carolina. The party seeking a divorce on the grounds of habitual drunkenness must prove that their spouse suffers from habitual drunkenness. Proof requires admissible evidence of the person’s actions and behaviors.

Having sufficient proof of every part of a divorce claim is essential. At Turner Family Law, we work thoroughly to build the evidence that is critical to success in your case.

Today, our Greenville divorce lawyer discusses proving habitual drunkenness in a South Carolina divorce.

Habitual Drunkenness Defined

South Carolina law defines habitual drunkenness, for the purposes of divorce, as “the fixed habit of frequently getting drunk.” A person does not have to be constantly intoxicated to be considered habitually drunk. Rooney v. Rooney, 242 S.C. 503 (1963).

Under S.C. Code § 20-3-10, habitual drunkenness may be caused by alcohol or the use of any narcotic drug.

How to Prove Habitual Drunkenness in a Divorce in SC

To prove habitual drunkenness in a South Carolina divorce, you may present evidence of any of the following:

Personal testimony

You can testify to the things that you have witnessed. Ultimately, you have spent the most time with your spouse. You can testify to their drinking behavior and how they act when they are intoxicated. As you prepare your case, you should keep a diary documenting events and the repetitive nature of the intoxication.

Criminal records

A person with habitual drunkenness may have a criminal record. If they have been arrested, or if there are police reports relating to drunk driving, gross intoxication in public or disorderly conduct, the evidence may be presented in court. Remember that family court has different standards than criminal court. Even if your spouse was not criminally charged or convicted, it may still be probative and admissible evidence in family court.

Purchasing and obtaining alcohol

Someone who chronically uses alcohol or drugs must get them from somewhere. Records of a purchase history or otherwise acquiring alcohol or drugs can prove the person’s frequency of use.

Depositions and admissions

You can subpoena your spouse to sit for a deposition. You can request them to make admissions about their substance use and abuse. Our lawyers can help you take advantage of legal discovery procedures and question your spouse effectively about their behavior.

Rehabilitation and medical care

Someone with a substance abuse problem may seek rehabilitation and medical care. Their medical records may show evidence of health problems that are related to substance abuse, and there may be evidence that the person sought treatment for substance abuse. Hospitalization records, emergency services, in-patient care, out-patient treatment and counseling services may all be helpful to show a pattern of behavior.

Employment problems

Someone with a substance abuse problem may have difficulty maintaining employment. Frequent employment changes or employment records may show a history of substance abuse.

Case example

See Fisher v. Fisher, 276 S.C. 375 (S.C. 1981), where the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned a lower court regarding a finding of habitual drunkenness. The Supreme Court said that there was sufficient evidence of drunkenness where the Respondent drinks every weekend and frequently during the week. In addition, the evidence showed that the Respondent went on drinking binges, consuming as much as a half-gallon of liquor during a binge.

A private investigator testified that the Respondent appeared under the influence when the investigator delivered the divorce petition at 11:00 AM. The Supreme Court found that it was an abuse of discretion by the lower court to decline to find evidence of habitual drunkenness.

Effect of Drug or Alcohol Abuse in a South Carolina Divorce

If a person can prove that their spouse exhibits habitual drunkenness, they may seek a divorce based on fault. (S.C. Code § 20-3-10). No-fault divorce is based on the parties living separately and apart for at least one year. When a spouse can prove the habitual drunkenness of their spouse, they do not have to complete the one-year waiting period.

Alimony and property division

In addition to changing the timeline of a divorce, habitual drunkenness can significantly impact the outcome of a divorce. The court has many things to consider when they decide what to award each party in a divorce. The division of personal property, alimony and the payment of legal fees may depend on the habitual drunkenness of a spouse and how their actions contributed to the breakdown of the marriage. See S.C. Code § 20-3-130, § 20-3-620.

Child custody and visitation

Habitual drunkenness matters in a custody determination and schedule of visitation. The court may impose any condition that it finds necessary to provide for the safety of the child including supervised visitation. When determining an order for custody, the court may consider the capacity and disposition of the parents to meet the needs of a child.

Certainly, someone with habitual drunkenness is impaired in their ability to meet the needs of a child. In addition, a stated factor for consideration is the mental and physical health of all parties. Habitual drunkenness may weigh against the mental and physical fitness of a parent. See S.C. Code § 63-15-240(B).

Lawyer for Divorce for Habitual Drunkenness

In order to best support your habitual drunkenness case, a Greenville divorce lawyer can help. At Turner Family Law, we handle all types of divorce cases, and we can explore all possible grounds for your case.

Call or message us now to talk about your situation for a consultation.

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We submit a Complaint to the Court, or help you respond to one. Hearings and negotiations take place.

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