How to Protect Yourself and Your Children When Divorcing an Alcoholic Husband or Wife

How to Protect Yourself and Your Children When Divorcing an Alcoholic Husband or Wife
June 8, 2023
|   updated:
March 31, 2024

When the one who promised to love and cherish you in sickness and in health becomes the one who brings you pain and uncertainty, life can feel like a never-ending storm. If you're in the process of divorcing an alcoholic husband or wife, you're likely navigating a tumultuous sea of emotions. Anger, fear, guilt, sadness, and perhaps even relief might wash over you in waves. You are not alone on this voyage. Countless women and men have braved this storm before you, and many are sailing alongside you right now.

Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcohol Misuse are terms you may have heard in passing but are now central to your life. These terms, often replaced with the stigmatizing label "alcoholic," encompass conditions that affect not just the person wrestling with them, but everyone in their wake - especially their families. Misunderstanding these conditions can be like sailing without a compass. However, with the right understanding, you can chart a course to safer waters.

In this article, we will be your lighthouse, guiding you through the murky waters of divorce. We aim to educate you on protecting yourself and your children, navigating the legal labyrinth, and rebuilding your life after divorcing a spouse struggling with alcohol-related issues. The journey might be stormy, but with the right knowledge and support, you can find the strength to sail towards a brighter horizon.

This is a journey of empowerment and reclaiming control of your life, and your children's future. It's a journey that involves understanding the nature of your wife or husband's struggle with alcohol, preparing for the legal process of divorce, protecting your children, practicing self-care, and finding support. It's a journey that, while challenging, can lead to newfound strength and resilience.

Together, we will explore the realities of divorcing an alcoholic spouse, charting a course through the storm, and steering towards safer shores. The journey might be daunting, but remember, you're the captain of your ship, and with the right compass, you can navigate through anything.


Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcohol Misuse  


Father Carefully Explaining Alcohol Use Disorder & Alcohol Misuse to Daughter

Navigating the waters of divorce from an alcoholic spouse can be overwhelming, but the first step in regaining control of your ship is understanding the nature of the storm you face. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and Alcohol Misuse, though often interchanged with the term "alcoholic," refer to specific conditions that deeply impact a person's life and the lives of those around them.

Alcohol Use Disorder is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. It's not just about the quantity or frequency of drinking. It's about the disruption that alcohol causes in the person's life, the damage to their health, their relationships, their work, and their ability to fulfill responsibilities. Your spouse may have AUD if you've noticed an increased tolerance to alcohol, withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking, or that much of their time is consumed by activities necessary to get, use, or recover from the effects of alcohol.

Alcohol Misuse, on the other hand, refers to a range of issues, from risky drinking to alcohol dependence. Risky drinking can include binge drinking or drinking more than the recommended limits. If your husband or wife frequently drinks more than they intended, neglects responsibilities due to drinking, or continues drinking despite recurrent problems caused or exacerbated by alcohol, they may be misusing alcohol.

In the legal case "In re Marriage of Staszak", the complexities of dealing with a spouse struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder were highlighted, illustrating the many challenges you may face. However, understanding these conditions is not just about labeling your spouse's struggle. It's about recognizing the impact of their alcoholism on your marriage and family life. It's about understanding that their struggle with alcoholism is not a choice or a moral failing, but a complex health issue.

When your spouse has AUD or misuses alcohol, it can lead to unpredictable behavior, impaired judgment, and neglect of responsibilities. This can create an unstable home environment, affecting you and your children's mental and emotional well-being. In the context of divorce, understanding these conditions can be crucial in court, especially when discussing child custody and visitation arrangements. 

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcohol Misuse can be a beacon in the storm, helping you navigate the turbulent process of divorcing an alcoholic spouse. Knowledge of these conditions allows you to make informed decisions, anticipate potential issues, and take necessary precautions to protect yourself and your children. As you continue on this journey, remember that understanding these conditions is a powerful tool in navigating the storm.


Preparing for Divorce from a Wife or Husband with Alcohol Use Disorder

The decision to divorce is never easy, and when you're divorcing an alcoholic spouse, it may feel like navigating turbulent waters. However, with the right preparation and tools like Soberlink, you can ensure your children’s safety and welfare while facilitating a healthier relationship between your children and their parent. 

Understanding and recognizing the signs and behaviors associated with Alcohol Use Disorder are the first steps in preparing for your divorce. We must remember that Alcohol Use Disorder is not a personal failing but a serious health condition that affects not only the individual but those around them.

In this challenging time, it's crucial to prioritize the needs and feelings of your children. As highlighted by the case "In re Marriage of Staszak", maintaining a healthy relationship with both parents is important for the children’s emotional stability when safe. The father in this case was required to use Soberlink for about two years, and despite the mom pointing out his having three Non-Compliant tests, the court ruled he was fit to parent because of his consistency with testing otherwise and always blowing below the legal limit when he was Non-Compliant. Most importantly, the children did not feel endangered around him.

Submitting a Soberlink test while lying on the sofa


Soberlink, an alcohol monitoring system, played a pivotal role in this context. It can provide an additional layer of safety and reassurance, not just for you, but for the courts as well. This alcohol testing device, when used as part of a court-ordered agreement, can ensure that your spouse is sober during parenting time, thus providing a safer environment for your children. Remember, this is not about vilifying your spouse, but about ensuring the safety and well-being of your children.

As you prepare for divorce, it's also essential to seek professional advice. Lawyers with experience in handling cases of divorcing an alcoholic spouse can provide invaluable insight into the process and what to expect in court. Therapists or counselors can provide emotional support and guidance for you and your children during this challenging time.

Finally, protecting your financial assets is another vital part of preparing for divorce. Ensuring access to all necessary financial information and establishing separate accounts can help secure your financial future and your children’s. 

Preparing for divorce from a spouse struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder can feel overwhelming. However, with understanding, professional advice, tools like Soberlink, and focusing on putting your children first, you can navigate these stormy seas. You are not just a husband or wife navigating a divorce; you're a strong man or woman taking control of their life and ensuring the well-being of their children.


Protecting Your Children During the Divorce Process

When navigating the turbulent seas of divorce from a husband or wife who misuses alcohol or has an Alcohol Use Disorder, your children's well-being becomes your guiding star. Amid the legal complexities of divorce and child custody, your primary concern is to ensure their safety, emotional stability, and overall well-being.

Children of individuals struggling with alcohol misuse are at a higher risk of experiencing various forms of abuse and neglect, which can lead to emotional and behavioral problems. As such, in the stormy process of divorcing an alcoholic spouse, safeguarding your children becomes a top priority.

Courts typically prioritize the best interests of the child when making custody decisions. In cases where one spouse has an alcohol addiction, proving sobriety becomes a crucial aspect. Courts will consider evidence of alcohol misuse when determining child custody and visitation rights. This is where tools like Soberlink can be particularly beneficial.

As highlighted in the case "In re Marriage of Staszak", Soberlink monitored the father's sobriety over two years. Despite a few Non-Compliant tests, the court determined that he was fit to parent, as his children did not feel endangered around him. This case emphasizes the importance of considering the children's perspective and feelings, and how maintaining a relationship with both parents, when safe, is essential for their emotional stability. 

Soberlink can be used as a part of a court-ordered agreement to ensure that your spouse maintains sobriety during their parenting time, thus creating a safer environment for your children. This not only protects the children but can also help facilitate a healthier relationship between them and their parent.

Having open and age-appropriate conversations with your children about the situation is also crucial. Reassure them that they are not to blame for their parent's struggle with alcohol and that they are loved and supported.

Additionally, seek professional help. Therapists or counselors specializing in children's mental health can provide your children with strategies to cope with the changes they are facing. They can help your children understand that their parent's struggle with alcohol misuse is a disease and not a reflection of their worth or the love their parent has for them. 

Maintain a routine for your children as much as possible, providing a sense of normalcy in the midst of turmoil. Also, if safe and feasible, keep lines of communication open with your spouse. An amicable relationship between divorcing parents can significantly benefit the children.

Through the stormy process of divorcing an alcoholic spouse, remember that you are not alone. You are the lighthouse guiding your children toward calmer waters. Your strength and resilience serve as a beacon of hope and security for them as you navigate the complexities toward a safer shore.


Navigating the Court Process


Navigating the Court Process

The court process can be daunting when divorcing an alcoholic husband or wife. However, understanding how the system works and what to expect can make the journey less intimidating. Remember, the ultimate goal of the court process is to ensure fair outcomes and the well-being of all parties involved, particularly the children.

  • Filing for Divorce: The first formal step in the process is filing for divorce. This typically involves submitting a petition or complaint to the court. It's crucial to consult with a lawyer experienced in divorce cases involving alcohol misuse to ensure all necessary information is accurately presented.
  • Gathering Evidence: Evidence of your spouse's alcohol abuse or Alcohol Use Disorder can significantly affect the court's decisions, especially regarding child custody. Prior to the case, this evidence may include photographs, text messages, police reports, medical records, and more. Tools like Soberlink can also provide valuable, court-admissible evidence of your spouse's sobriety, or lack thereof, during parenting time.
  • Child Custody and Visitation: Child custody is likely to be one of the most contested issues when divorcing an alcoholic spouse. The court's priority is the child's best interest. As such, evidence of your spouse's alcohol abuse or Alcohol use Disorder can significantly influence custody decisions. In situations where the court deems it safe for the parent to have visitation rights or shared custody, Soberlink can be used to ensure the parent remains sober during their time with the children.
  • Financial Settlements: During the divorce proceedings, the court will also determine the division of assets and possible spousal support. The spouse's Alcohol Use Disorder may impact these decisions, especially if their alcohol misuse has negatively impacted the family's financial situation.
  • Court Hearings: Throughout the divorce process, there will be various court hearings. These may include temporary hearings, pre-trial hearings, and, if necessary, a trial. It's essential to approach each hearing prepared and composed, ready to present your case and respond to any questions or statements from the other party.
  • Finalizing the Divorce: Once all issues have been addressed, the court will issue a final divorce decree. This legally binding document outlines the terms of the divorce, including child custody, visitation, and financial settlements.

Life after Divorce: Finding Your Path Forward


Woman in car waving to her ex-partner - Life after Divorce

As the dust settles, it's crucial to remember that this process isn't just about ending a marriage, it's about starting a new chapter in your life. A chapter where you reclaim your strength, rebuild your life, and provide a safe and nurturing environment for your children.

  • Emotional Healing: The end of a marriage, particularly one marred by alcohol misuse, can leave emotional scars. Seeking therapy or counseling can provide you with the tools to process these emotions and start the healing process. Support groups can also offer a sense of community and understanding, reminding you that you're not alone in your journey.
  • Co-Parenting with an Alcoholic Ex-Spouse: If your ex-spouse has visitation rights or shared custody, navigating co-parenting can be a challenge. It's important to maintain open lines of communication where possible and safe. Tools like Soberlink can provide reassurance and transparency, ensuring your ex-spouse is sober during their parenting time.
  • Supporting Your Children: Your children may need extra support adjusting to the new family dynamics. Regular check-ins, open conversations, and reassurance of your love can help them navigate this transition. Consider seeking the help of a child psychologist or counselor to provide additional emotional support.
  • Financial Stability: The divorce process may have brought financial changes. Developing a new budget, understanding your financial responsibilities, and planning for the future can help create a sense of financial stability. If necessary, consider seeking advice from a financial advisor.
  • Self-Care: Amid all the changes and responsibilities, don't forget to take care of yourself. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and time for relaxation and hobbies can go a long way in promoting physical and mental well-being.
  • Building a Support Network: Surround yourself with people who support and uplift you. This could be family, friends, or a support group of individuals who have undergone similar experiences. This network can provide emotional support, practical advice, and a sense of community.
  • Looking Ahead: Divorcing an alcoholic husband or wife marks the end of a challenging chapter in your life, but it also signals a new beginning. Take time to set goals for the future, explore new interests, and celebrate your strength and resilience.


Divorcing an alcoholic husband or wife can feel like a stormy journey through uncharted waters. Yet, even amid the tumultuous waves, remember that you are the steadfast lighthouse guiding your children toward calmer shores. This journey is not only about ending a marriage plagued by alcohol misuse, but also about beginning a new chapter of strength, resilience, and hope for both you and your children.

Tools like Soberlink can be a compass in this journey, providing reassurance of your children's safety and maintaining transparency during your spouse's parenting time. Legal and psychological professionals can offer guidance, helping you navigate the stormy seas of court proceedings and emotional turmoil. And throughout it all, remember to keep your children's best interests at heart, providing a safe and nurturing environment for them to thrive.

The path of divorcing an alcoholic husband or wife can be challenging, yet it often leads to a destination of renewed strength and stability. As you traverse this path, remember that you are more than a husband or wife going through a divorce. You are a strong man or woman, a caring mother or father, a survivor who is reclaiming their life, and a beacon of hope for her children.

The journey may be difficult, but you are not alone. With the right tools, advice, and support, you can navigate this challenging time, ensuring your children’s and yourself’s well-being. As the dust settles, remember that this process is about closing a chapter and beginning a new one, where you stand stronger, more resilient, and ready to embrace the future.






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