How to Leave an Alcoholic Partner and Rebuild Your Life

Divorce is almost always an emotional, difficult experience. For those who have found that their spouse is an alcoholic, however, it may feel like an unwanted but necessary step towards freedom and safety for yourself and your children. Sadly, that does not make seeking a divorce from a partner who is an alcoholic any easier.

Most people do not know how to even begin to break the toxic cycle or to start to pull away, much less how to divorce a partner who is an alcoholic, or where to begin to find resources that can help support them after the divorce is settled. In these cases, you need help from Chambers Family Law. Our Atlanta-based attorneys have specific and personal experience facing divorce proceedings impacted by addiction and alcoholism, and we are ready to help guide you through this difficult journey, no matter how quick or slow your pace may be.

Why Is Divorcing a Partner Who is an Alcoholic So Complex?

Divorce is already difficult enough, but seeking a divorce from a partner who is an alcoholic may feel much more hopeless, stressful, and complicated. You may already feel overwhelmed by the specific difficulties impacting your family and your life.

Alcohol use disorder is a progressive disease that hurts, not only the alcoholic, but the people around them. A study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 29 million people age 12 and older suffer from alcohol use disorder. That can escalate to a degree that divorce may even feel necessary for yourself and your loved ones.

Many people, including our team, understand firsthand the difficulty of making the decision to divorce an alcoholic. No matter the circumstances, it can be painfully difficult to make the choice to finally leave. So, what specific difficulties can you expect to face?

Difficulty Participating in Divorce

Difficulty Participating in Divorce

When your spouse is experiencing alcoholism, their condition may make it difficult for them to provide the expected participation in the divorce proceedings to begin with. They may face difficulty appearing in court, providing paperwork by certain deadlines, and making payments for various fees or support.

These issues can impact how quickly you are able to get a divorce. If their condition and behavior delays your case, you may find yourself dealing with a much more extended issue, which can add to the financial and emotional strain on you.

Dangerous Behaviors

Alcoholism can also leave your spouse with severe behavioral changes. When they are drinking, you may find them to be more aggressive, less reliable, and more unpredictable. That makes dealing with a high-emotion situation like a divorce more difficult and potentially more dangerous.

In some cases, you may even need to seek out a protective order for yourself or your children. That adds a layer of complication to your case that, while crucial for your safety, may prolong the case and make it more difficult to recover.

Child Safety Concerns

Divorces do not just affect you and your spouse. If you have children, you may be concerned about your children’s well-being and safety.

Divorce can have a major negative effect on many children, especially those without a strong support system. When alcoholism is involved, it can leave children with trauma associated with a divorce, and sadly, many children of an alcoholic have inherited that genetic disposition and will suffer from alcoholism as adults. A recent study presented by the CDC showed that 29 percent of students observed in 2021 reported alcohol or substance use.

You may also simply be worried that your children may be harmed by your spouse. You may need to take specific action to keep them safe, including filing for a protective order that can prevent your spouse from approaching or contacting your children. Or you may need to ensure that safety measures are in place to protect your children while they are with the alcoholic parent, to ensure that parent’s sobriety during any time they have the children, or providing you with immediate recourse if not.

Financial Aspects of Divorcing a Partner Who is an Alcoholic

Financial Aspects of Divorcing a Partner Who is an Alcoholic

One of the larger concerns that many people have during a divorce is the monetary impact. This is especially important for families where only one spouse is working, which could make getting support more complex.

If you are seeking out a divorce from a partner who is an alcoholic, your attorney can help you with any of the following financial aspects of your divorce, among others:

  • Asset Division – A key concern for any couple getting a divorce is the division of property. Generally, your marital property is generally split as evenly as possible between both parties, absent significant factors which warrant otherwise. However, you may have certain assets that belong to you before marriage, or a spouse experiencing alcoholism may have driven up certain debts on their own. In some instances, you may be awarded a larger share of the marital assets to allow you to provide for the children if the other parent is an alcoholic still in active addiction. Discuss these issues with an attorney to ensure your property is split as fairly as possible.
  • Alimony or Spousal Support – Many spouses of alcoholics may find themselves suddenly needing to transition from stay-at-home parent to worker. Many people experiencing alcoholism have a difficult time maintaining employment, and joining the workforce can leave you with difficulty supporting yourself if you have not been working for a long time. Alimony can help make up the difference in these cases.
  • Child Support – Any divorce can be difficult on children, but a divorce involving alcoholism comes with specific challenges. Ensuring that your children are financially supported throughout this process is key, so reach out to an attorney about ensuring you receive the financial support you need for your children.

Financial concerns can be a trick area to navigate, and you may need help taking action when navigating these issues with a partner who is an alcoholic. Your attorney can guide you through this process, ensuring you have the support and resources you need to calculate your financial needs. We advocate for our clients’ needs in the courtroom and ensure you get the support you need in court.

Navigating Divorce with Children

Navigating Divorce with Children

When seeking a divorce from a partner who is an alcoholic, protecting your children is your top priority in many cases. Your children are in a much more vulnerable position, especially depending on their age, so keeping them safe throughout the divorce proceedings is vital.

Beyond the financial impacts of child support and keeping them safe with protective orders, you may also have different needs than other divorcees when it comes to child visitation and custody. You may want specific rules and safety measures in place for handling visitation, especially if you believe that your spouse poses a risk to your children.

Child custody may also be a thorny issue to navigate. You may be specifically worried about domestic violence or the other parent drunk driving with your children in the vehicle, and because of these issues, you may want to put into place many of the safeguard procedures now available to protect children from harm if the other parent is intoxicated or impaired.

Getting the visitation rights agreement in custody agreement you want may come down to proving that your children may be unsafe in these circumstances. That may include video evidence of your spouse’s behavior, text messages about the situation, or a record of driving under the influence. Your attorney can use any evidence in this situation to argue on your behalf for the agreement you want.

Support and Resources During Your Divorce

Support and Resources During Your Divorce

When seeking a divorce, you are dealing with an emotional, potentially even harrowing experience. You may need specific guidance and resources beyond the decision to divorce your spouse. For example, you may need a stronger support network during and after the divorce, outside the courtroom.

A key resource is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which provides resources and educational tools for those experiencing a substance abuse or mental health crisis. If you need help, SAMHSA’s national helpline is confidential, free, and available at any time. They also have services for English and Spanish speakers.

You may also want to seek out rehabilitation resources for your spouse. While your marriage may have ended because of their behavior, you may still want to provide assistance to help them find a path to sobriety. Your attorney can help you identify sources for rehabilitation, which can provide options to get treatment and overcome this difficult situation.

Many of our clients have also received guidance from Heather Hayes & Associates, who has frequently collaborated on our team to help families survive and thrive in these difficult situations. She and her team understand how difficult it can be to navigate the complex spectrum of addiction, and she has provided many families with resources for treatment placement, adolescent services, and more. Our team trusts her with the many complex needs of our clients.

For families that are facing a spouse or parent’s struggle with alcoholism, there are resources that can help you navigate this difficult experience. Groups like Al-Anon and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offer support and informational resources to help families and friends navigate the difficult terrain of alcohol abuse.

How Can an Attorney Help Me When Divorcing a Partner Who is an Alcoholic?

The process of seeking a divorce from a partner who is an alcoholic comes with specific challenges that may be difficult to navigate beyond the typical difficulties of a divorce. You may feel overwhelmed, not just by the emotional toll of your situation, but by the difficulties present when a loved one is facing alcohol use disorder or other substance abuse issues. This situation makes an already difficult choice feel impossible and hopeless.

Your divorce attorney is here to advocate for your needs and guide you to the resources that can help you make informed decisions. Whether your spouse is willing to cooperate during the divorce, or whether they contest it, your attorney can act on your behalf during mediation and in the courtroom to ensure your needs are met.

Seeking the aid of the attorneys at Chambers Family Law means that you have, not only the legal advice and support that you need to make informed decisions, but also support specifically geared towards those seeking a divorce from a partner who is an alcoholic. This can be a difficult and emotionally draining experience, which is why having an attorney on your side during the divorce can make this process easier for you and your children.

Reach Out for Legal Guidance when Divorcing a Partner who is an Alcoholic

Seeking a divorce is never easy, but divorcing a partner who is an alcoholic comes with unique difficulties that can make taking the first step towards divorce scarier than ever. Fortunately, you do not have to face these issues alone.

If you are planning to divorce a partner who is an alcoholic and you need legal support, reach out to the attorneys at Chambers Family Law. Our team offers resources specific to those dealing with addiction and alcoholism, and we are here to support families in any choices they make to protect themselves and their loved ones.

To learn more about the aid we can offer, reach out for a consultation now by calling or filling out our online contact form.