How Drug & Alcohol Addiction Impacts Divorce

It is the unfortunate reality that addiction impacts many families and can be a major factor in the decision to divorce.  Many times, an individual is not aware of their spouse’s addiction at the time of marriage, or the addiction develops during marriage.  Because of this, the addiction was not ‘part of the agreement’ or expectations for marriage and this can lead to a lot of emotional conflict.  There are many layers to drug and alcohol addiction and some individuals function better than others while addicted.  Additionally, some individuals are interested in treatment and recovery while others are not.  All of these things impact the emotions of the divorce mediation process.

The addict’s self-destructive behavior may be impacting family finances, family dynamics, parental dynamics, family safety, and more.  An addict’s behavior is often erratic or unreliable and because of that, the divorce mediation process may look very different than divorce mediation for a marriage without an addict.  Divorce Magazine explains the type of information you need to gather and actions you need to take to protect yourself and children during divorce mediation with an addict, “If the divorce is particularly acrimonious or if there are young children involved, and for the sake of their safety you wish to restrict your addictive spouses access to your children (at least until they have completed a rehabilitation program and stayed clean for a certain period of time), then you may wish to begin gathering all possible evidence of any problematic behavior from your spouse, including times they have been unable to safely care for your children or drive your children responsibly when needed due to being under the influence…Ensuring your divorce agreement includes a well-written drug or alcohol rehabilitation program, followed by regular testing, will also help give you the peace of mind you need to ensure your former spouse is behaving in a way that is responsible when around your children. Finally, while much of the focus of a divorce from an addict is on the addicted individual, it is important to also focus on yourself; take time to be kind to yourself and heal from what has sure to have been a harrowing ordeal.”

An addict may still be highly involved in divorce mediation or they may be emotionally, mentally, and physically unavailable – there is a huge range. What divorce mediation looks like will depend on the severity of addiction, the level of participation, and ultimately the best interest of all individuals involved in the divorce. Mediation is not therapy but, rather, the role of the mediator will be to assist the participants in more effective communication so that better decisions can be made.