Addiction and Family Law: Gambling

August 26th 2022

According to the NHS, addiction is defined as “not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you“. The NHS is launching new gambling addiction clinics to meet record demand, and that demand means an increased impact on families.

Earlier this month Peter Shilton and his wife Steph went public about his addiction to gambling, and he has gone further than most high profile figures in speaking out.

All too often, gambling addiction is exposed when it has wrecked family finances, and relationships have cracked under the pressure. Greater awareness may enable people to identify their own problems or those of family members before the situation is irretrievable.

As solicitors, we may be trying to work out why there is a financial crisis in the family. In the context of divorce, a gambling addiction may emerge in the course of financial disclosure, with the addict’s ability to cover up debts being interrupted by the divorce process.

Until an addict admits there is a problem, they are unlikely to change and that may be relevant in dealing with family finances. There are no hard and fast rules, each case will be different.

One of the challenges will be working out whether the gambling should be treated as blameworthy, thereby meeting the Section 25(g) criteria. How much family money has gone? Has there been fraud? If the addiction has led the gambler to forge signatures, appropriate other people’s money and the like, then the court may well take it into account.

If the gambler has not committed any criminal acts, but has sought help and admitted a problem, then the court may be more understanding. Solicitors in those circumstances will want to be creative about ensuring the matrimonial pot is not further depleted and does not fuel a relapse.