The world today is in a bit of a state of shock over the news that one of Hollywood’s most famous couples, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, have split. The pair has been married for two years and romantic partners for more than a decade. During their time together, the couple welcomed six children, both both biological and adopted. They seemed to be a couple with true staying power. What went wrong?
There are rumors that Jolie filed for divorce in part because of Brad’s substance abuse issues, although her complaint for divorce merely cites irreconcilable differences. We are not here to speculate about Pitt’s alleged problems. However, from the conversations we’ve seen take place on social media today, it’s clear that the broader topic of addiction and divorce is one touches the lives of many couples and their families. Given that September is National Recovery Month and that we are right now in the middle of the first National Opioid Epidemic Awareness Week, proclaimed by President Obama, the timing for addressing the topic of addiction and its impact on marriage couldn’t be more relevant.
In short, substance abuse issues can plague marriages, whether or not the couple lives anywhere near Hollywood. In a Huffington Post article from 2013, media personality Susan Saper Galamba indicated, “Alcoholism is the monster in the closet. It is the ‘thing’ for which spouses and children make excuses to keep the monster hidden. What is often the most difficult aspect of divorce for the spouse of an alcoholic is opening the door to the closet and letting the monster come out.”
Divorcing an alcoholic spouse can be particularly hard if the other spouse simply wants the alcoholic to get help, but doesn’t necessarily want the divorce. The rumors surrounding Pitt and Jolie seem to indicate that she was most concerned regarding Pitt and his parenting of the children. While it is difficult, if the alcoholic spouse is somehow endangering the safety of the children, then there is no choice. The children’s best interest must come first.
Of course, there are alternatives. Hopefully the addicted spouse sees the light and seeks help for their disease. After treatment, it may appear as though the marriage can be saved. All family members involved may require therapy before a reconciliation can occur.
Legally, spouses may consider a reconciliation agreement, which is a type of post-nuptial agreement, prior to reconciliation. These agreements are generally enforceable but require that both parties give up something in order for it to be valid. This can be something as simple as withdrawing divorce papers already filed for a promise to remain in alcohol treatment and counseling for as long as needed. These agreements afford comfort to spouses who remain with trust issues after their partner completes treatment. Be sure the agreement is in writing, was reviewed by both spouses, is signed and that both spouses had the chance to have their own attorneys review the document prior to signing.
Mediation may also be a solution to a less rocky divorce, if divorce is inevitable. Some couples are choosing the collaborative divorce method, which emphasizes the couple working together, with attorneys to come to a reasonable and fair agreement without going thru the time and expense of divorce litigation.
Whatever the outcome, the hope is that the addicted spouse seeks and receives the help that they need, so that the entire family can move forward and a happy and healthy way. If you are looking for more information regarding divorce or separation from your addicted spouse, please contact us today to schedule your initial consultation with one of our qualified family law attorneys experienced in divorce here in New Jersey.