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My spouse is an alcoholic/addict: can we still have a low conflict divorce?

My spouse is an alcoholic/addict: can we still have a low conflict divorce?

Reaching the point when you are ready to divorce someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs can be a long and painful process. Spending months or years trying to support and help your partner through addiction can be exhausting. When someone isn't willing to change their self-destructive behavior, it’s often more than a marriage can handle. If you are leaving someone who abuses alcohol or drugs, you may be thinking: My spouse is an alcoholic or addict: can we still have a low conflict divorce?

Addiction, Divorce, and Conflict

When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it can permeate every aspect of their life, especially their interpersonal relationships. Addiction hurts the individual and those closest to them. When you are divorcing an alcoholic or addict, it can be difficult to determine how much conflict you can expect. Often, it will depend on your circumstances and the degree of your ex’s addiction. When someone is addicted to alcohol or drugs, their behavior may be unpredictable. They may be cooperative during the process. However, divorce is stressful, and your ex may cope with their negative feelings by increasing their use. Depending on their condition, you may see even worse behavior.

Addiction, Divorce, and Denial

Those addicted to alcohol or drugs are often in denial about the extent of their use. For alcoholics, the fact that their substance of choice is legal and heavily promoted in our culture can make it that much harder for them to recognize. Drug users may also have problems with acknowledging their addiction. Your ex may be a functional alcoholic or user who can manage to engage with the divorce process. Then again, if they can’t acknowledge their addiction, your ex may also have problems with insight and negotiation.

Addiction, Mood Changes, and Illegal Activity

If your ex is addicted to prescription or illegal opioids, cocaine, methamphetamines, or another highly addictive substance, they may be prone to extreme mood changes and irrational and erratic behavior. Individuals addicted to these substances may also be involved in illegal activities related to their use. Someone in this state may not be able to evaluate the issues and effectively reason or communicate during a divorce case. In this circumstance, you may have no other option but to start with a contested hearing.

Addiction-Related Divorce Terms

If your divorce concerns child custody and placement, your ex's addiction will be a central issue. Negotiating terms such as them not drinking or using around your kids or having supervised contact may be challenging. However, if you have evidence of your ex’s addiction, you may be able to agree on custody and placement-related issues, and the supervision that may be required.

You may also have concerns that your ex will deplete your community assets or become violent towards you in response to the divorce. Under these circumstances, you may need to take protective action to ensure that you and your assets are safe.

Addiction and Low-Conflict Divorce

Low-conflict divorce may be possible for you and your ex. However, it usually requires both parties to be committed to cooperation. If you and your spouse choose Collaborative Divorce and its resources and can meaningfully participate throughout the process, you may be able to develop terms to lower the conflict surrounding the substance abuse. You may also be able to use Divorce Mediation to negotiate and settle your terms without going through a hearing. However, the success of these methods depends heavily on the parties and their ability and willingness to cooperate.

Contact an Experienced Wisconsin Divorce Attorney

Predicting an addict’s behavior can be challenging, especially in the context of divorce. In this situation, it may be helpful to sit down with an experienced Wisconsin family attorney to discuss your ex’s addiction and how it may impact your case. Your counsel can help you evaluate your options and goals and determine your next steps.

Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is an attorney and Mediator with the experience you need to help you with your Wisconsin divorce case. She understands the complexities of navigating divorce when there are addiction issues. If you have a divorce case in Metro Milwaukee, Waukesha, or Brookfield, please contact us today and let us take a “first look” at your situation.