Divorcing An Addict: When Your Wife Is A Substance Abuser
Divorcing an addict: If you’re divorcing due to your wife’s substance abuse, your situation may be more common than you think. According to a 2018 report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
- Women often use smaller amounts of drugs than men, for less time, and get addicted quicker.
- Women’s hormones make them more sensitive to some drugs than men.
- Women may have more drug cravings and be more prone to relapse than men.
- Divorce and loss of custody can trigger drug use in women.
- 8.4 million women misused prescription drugs in the past year.
- The number of women with opioid use disorder during labor and delivery quadrupled from 1999 – 2014.
- Women who suffered childhood trauma are 5 times more likely to use drugs and twice as likely to abuse alcohol than those who did not.
- Women who abuse alcohol or drugs are less likely to seek help, in part due to stigma (society is harder on addicted women, especially mothers, than addicted fathers).
People in active addiction are difficult to deal with even in the best of circumstances. Their moods are erratic, they often lie to deny their drug use, they make promises they don’t keep, and they tend to blame others for the problems they’ve created.
Your divorce process may be derailed due to your wife’s compromised ability to deal with reality and make clear choices. And if you have children, your primary concern is shielding them from the impact of their mother’s addiction. Here are some important steps to take to help you do that:
1. File for emergency custody. If you feel that your children are in immediate danger, you can file an Order to Show Cause (OSC) and a judge will see you the same day. You will need to prove why your children will be harmed if you are not awarded custody. Be aware that even if the judge agrees with you, the order is temporary and you will need to return to court in ten days for a more substantial hearing.
2. Request supervised visitation. Judges want children to have access to both parents, even if one of them has substance abuse issues. Usually, that means putting a plan in place for the non-custodial parent to regain shared physical and legal custody. Supervised visitation will allow your children to have contact with their mother in a safe environment. Generally, she would be required to test for drugs and alcohol before and after visits, which would be monitored by a court-appointed professional.
3. Establish terms for reunification. You can ask the court to order your STBX to meet certain requirements before regaining custody. Usually, this is a combination of rehab, outpatient drug treatment, 12-step groups, supervised visitation, and parenting classes. A reunification plan will keep your children safe while their mother works on her recovery. It will also give you and indication of her ability to parent effectively.
Divorcing an addict can be frustrating and chaotic. You probably feel anger at your spouse and concerned about the impact on your kids. In order to manage your own reactions to your spouse’s addiction, consider going to Alanon, a 12-step group for people challenged by a loved one’s substance use. This program will help you learn to accept what you can’t control (whether or not your ex gets and stays sober) and what you can control: how you choose to respond to her behavior.