Living with an alcoholic wife can be a nightmare. Divorcing her can be even more terrifying.
Recently, a father in New Jersey called me because he had decided to divorce his wife who had a chronic drinking problem. He was concerned because she would drive with their young child while under the influence and had insisted on custody when he told her he was ending the marriage.
The first thing I told him was that his immediate and most-pressing concern must be the safety of his child. We said that we can ask a court to grant the father temporary custody while the settlement negotiation and divorce process play out but we would need evidence to document her drinking problem.
Although she had escaped being ticketed for drunk driving, she did have a history of losing jobs because of her alcohol abuse issue as well as an on-again, off-again record of going to a few AA meetings but then dropping out. Using this plus testimony from a daycare manager about her arriving to collect their son with alcohol on her breath and sometimes slurring her speech, we were able to get a judge to issue an order granting temporary custody to the father and restricting the mother to supervised visits in the dad’s home but only when she was sober.
Yet this is a temporary stopgap. Sadly, there is no one trait that describes an alcoholic wife or one who uses drugs or how they will respond during the divorce. The reality of divorcing an alcoholic wife is that their behavior is going to be unpredictable.
Still, there is hope. A man or father in New Jersey does not need to stay in a marriage to an alcoholic spouse. Doing so will likely destroy your emotional well-being and have a lasting and negative impact on your children.
Preparing to Divorce an Alcoholic Wife in New Jersey
As I told the father, accumulating evidence of a spouse’s drinking problem is paramount in achieving a fair and equitable settlement as well as in obtaining permanent custody of children from the marriage.
Here are some of the types of evidence needed when petitioning a family court judge in New Jersey.
- Get Records of DUI Arrests – If she has pled guilty or been convicted of a DUI charge, there will be a public record. Even if she was able to avoid a conviction from some of the tickets, we can obtain a court order to receive police records.
- Collect Insurance Premium Notices – Any DUI arrest or conviction will increase premiums for your auto insurance. Dig through your records to find premium notices showing increases that can be linked to tickets or convictions. If you don’t have the notices, ask your agent or broker to give you copies.
- Obtain Her Employment Records – This may also require a court order as many companies won’t provide an employee’s file voluntarily, even to a spouse. But the records are likely to show her being talked to, disciplined and even fired for alcoholism.
- Ask People Who Know Her to Help – Family, friends, co-workers, daycare staff can provide sworn testimony about how her drinking has affected them and your children. I’ve had parents of an alcoholic wife agree to testify because they were so concerned about the effect her drinking was having on both their grandchildren and son-in-law.
Things to Remember When Divorcing an Alcoholic Wife
As is the case when divorcing a substance abuser, there are things a man or father can do – and avoid doing – when divorcing an alcoholic spouse.
- Do be prepared for her to be unpredictable.
- Do be ready to move quickly if you are concerned about the safety and well-being of your children in her care.
- Do collect as much information and documents as you can before moving out of the house.
- Don’t think she’ll get better on her own or with your help. You weren’t able to fix her during the marriage and you won’t be able to do so now that you are splitting up.
- Don’t assume you can negotiate with her by being reasonable and giving in to her demands. As is the case when divorcing a narcissist or a spouse who thrives on conflict. Her alcoholism interferes with her ability to act or think rationally.
- Don’t blame yourself for her drinking problem. Regardless of what she may tell you, it’s not your fault. Keep reminding yourself of this.
- Don’t try going it alone. Ask close friends for support. We can refer you to trained therapists who can help you deal with what you’re going through. Feel free to join our support group for divorcing men and fathers; you don’t have to be a client to participate.
Unique Issues for New Jersey Men and Fathers Divorcing an Alcoholic Spouse
I know what you are going through if you are a man or father in New Jersey who is thinking of leaving their wife. We’ve helped other men get through the difficult end of a difficult marriage. If you have any questions, please call me or one of our experienced family law attorneys for men and fathers in New Jersey. Reach us at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620. We are here to help you. Read more about men’s guide divorcing an alcoholic spouse.