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Gambling Addiction And Divorce


There are a number of psychiatric conditions that can also become grounds for divorce. Sex addiction, gambling addiction, drug addiction, or any other form of compulsive behavior that places a strain on your marriage can be used by your spouse as grounds for a divorce in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, however, the law is complicated by the fact that there is no general grounds for divorce that specifically indicates financial ruin as a valid reason for divorce. However, there is a generic stipulation under the law that states:

  • Offered such indignities to the innocent and injured spouse as to render that spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome. [Ch 33 Title 23 Dissolution of Marital Status]

So, what, then, constitutes an “indignity that makes life intolerable”? Well, one could argue that spending your savings accounts on gambling and placing your family in debt would make your spouse’s life intolerable and would, in effect, be an “indignity” that they would not have contributed to in any way.

How does this play out in court? 

While gambling addiction makes a less-frequent entry into divorce courts than adultery, the law on adultery provides a defense to those accused of gambling addiction. As an example, a spouse can not raise adultery as a fault in a divorce case if they condoned and forgave the adultery in the past. This is known as a condonation defense. It is very important to understand how this defense works.

Essentially, the spouse will affirm that they committed adultery, but the spouse forgave them and the marriage continued. Later, the marriage breaks down. The spouse files a fault-based divorce on adultery grounds and the other spouse claims that they can’t use those grounds because they condoned the behavior in the marriage and it is now being used as a pretense to affect the outcome of the divorce.

Onto gambling addiction 

Spouses who enable or condone incessant gambling may not be able to file fault-based grounds for the divorce. Of course, while some spouses may enjoy gambling now and again, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily condone depleting marital assets and going into debt. In successful cases, spouses are able to show that the other spouse hid their gambling habits from them, depleted savings accounts without their knowledge, and placed the marital estate in debt.

If a spouse knew about the problem, but did not take any corrective action, the other spouse can claim that they had actual knowledge of the gambling and did not intervene until it became their problem too. The court would then use the evidence presented by both spouses to determine what the divorcing spouse knew about the gambling. If the divorcing spouse knew about the gambling, but didn’t realize it was their finances that were going to be attacked by creditors, then they would have a weaker argument for fault grounds because they condoned and knew about the behavior that led to financial indignity.

Talk to a Philadelphia Divorce Lawyer Today 

Lauren H. Kane handles both no-fault and fault-based divorces in Delaware County. Call our Philadelphia divorce lawyers today at 215-918-9453 or fill out our online form, and we can begin discussing your options immediately.

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