Andrew Barton, partner and based in the family team in Exeter, comments on research undertaken on 600 couples drinking habits and how it affected their marriage.


A study has found that couples with different drinking habits are more likely to divorce than those who drink the same.

The research was undertaken by the Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions. They followed more than 600 couples from the date of the marriage for the first nine years of their marriage.

Their findings revealed that almost 50% of couples where one partner drank more heavily ended in divorce, whereas the divorce rate for other couples was only 30%.

Heavy drinking in this context was defined as “drinking six or more drinks at one time to the point of intoxication”.

Surprisingly, it was discovered that the divorce rate for two heavy drinkers was no worse than for two non-heavy drinkers. It was stressed that whilst two heavy drinkers in a marriage may not increase the likelihood of divorce, it may create a particularly bad climate for their children.

Dr Kenneth Leonard who led the research, observed that the divorce rate may be slightly higher when the wife was a heavy drinker and the husband was not, simply because “men view heavy drinking by their wives as going against proper gender roles for women”.


Andrew Barton is a partner in the family team and recognised in both Chambers and Legal 500 as an expert in International divorce and cross-border issues. If you have any queries with regards to this review, then please don’t hesitate to contact Andrew on 01392 210700 or email