Divorcing An Addict: 3 Strategies For Getting Through It

Divorce isn’t simple for anyone, but ending a marriage to someone struggling with an addiction adds another set of concerns. What happens if he doesn’t stop using? Can you trust her with the kids? What if he can’t keep his job and pay child support? Although you can’t control the addict’s behavior, you can put strategies in place to make your divorced life more manageable.

Attend a support group for partners of addicts. Many spouses of addicts think their partner is the only one who needs help. The truth is, you also need help navigating the chaos divorce from an addict manifests.

Twelve step programs such as Alanon will give you tools to set boundaries with your spouse, communicate effectively, and establish safety for your children. It’s wise not to share all the gory details of your spouse’s addiction with your social circle; the truth will get distorted and find its way to your children’s ears. And as much as you may resent your spouse, he or she deserves privacy. Twelve step programs are a great place to get support from others who share your experience and will keep your story confidential.

Be honest with your kids about their other parent’s problem. Your spouse has probably been lying to you and your children about the extent of his disease. You may have colluded by living in denial, putting out fires, and over-functioning to compensate for his or her irresponsible behavior. Pretending that your insane living situation is normal will not do your kids any favors; it will just teach them to doubt reality and set them up to repeat dysfunctional relationship patterns. Acknowledge the elephant in the room – your spouse’s addiction – in an age-appropriate manner. Make sure to blame the disease of addiction and not your spouse. He’s not bad; he’s a sick person trying to get better. Normalize whatever feelings your kids have about their other parent’s illness and encourage them to come to you when they have questions, or need support.

Seek legal advice for everyone’s safety. Even if your spouse is seeking treatment, relapse is part of recovery. So plan for the worst and hope for the best. Ask your attorney what legal methods can be put in place to protect financial assets and the physical and emotional safety of yourself and your children.

  • How does your spouse’s addiction impact marital assets and child custody (both legal and physical)?
  • If your spouse is volatile, do you need a restraining order?
  • How does monitored visitation work and what happens if your spouse shows up intoxicated?
  • What will the court likely order your spouse to do in order to regain custody?
  • And what happens if he or she doesn’t follow orders?

Understanding legal implications and putting safeguards in place to protect your family will help you regain a sense of control.

Divorce from an addict can feel overwhelming, so take heed of the 12-step slogan “one day at a time.” Life will feel more manageable if you stop worrying about tomorrow and focus only on what you need to accomplish today.

Read More: 

7 Ways Addiction Can Destroy A Marriage: Your spouse may like to say they’re just “a little bit addicted” to pain killers, but let’s be real: high functioning addiction is still addiction. Learn how to recognize the sometimes hidden signs that your spouse’s addiction has escalated to the point of harming you and your children.

Investigating Addiction In Custody Disputes: What happens when you need to go to court because your child’s parent is addict? What can you do to keep your kids safe? 

Parenting time after addiction recovery: If your spouse has lost parenting time, but has sought and completed treatment, here’s what happens when they request to reinstate parenting time.

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