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  • Writer's pictureAngela Larimer

Divorcing a Substance Abuser

If you want to learn how to go about divorcing a substance abuser in Chicago, contact Family Law Attorney Angela Larimer at 773-370-0600.

Addictions are silent and deadly diseases. When a spouse is divorcing a substance abuser, a person has to prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally for the upcoming challenge. Substance abuse can affect marital life by causing financial problems, unpredictable behavior, poor communication, and violence. Leaving a substance abuser spouse requires courage, careful planning and a skilled family lawyer.

Signs & Symptoms When confronting an addict on the subtle signs and symptoms, there will most certainly be excuses to dismiss the accusations. If the substance is cocaine the user may dismiss his or her runny nose as a cold or allergies. Another visible sign among substance abusers is chattiness or erratic behavior, which the user may dismiss as a side effect of consuming too many energy drinks or too much caffeine. Violent outbursts or lashing out could be excused by having a bad work day. Tell-tell signs for most addicts are large cash withdrawals. Addictions are expensive. It is common for substance abusers to lie to maintain his or her image or to avoid conflict and/or experiencing shame. Although the signs may be subtle, it is important to keep a record of everything, particularly if you have children who you wish to protect.

Gathering Evidence There are specific steps that one should take in order to ensure the safety of the children and themselves when divorcing a substance abuser. Addicts are prone to violent outbursts and erratic behavior. One may greatly benefit by taking photos of their injuries, videos of the attacks, damaged property, documented financial injury from the addiction and/or giving police reports that substantiate the claim to the attorney. In some circumstances, if the substance abuser is already being required by their spouse to take at-home drug tests, documenting their failed drug tests and the level of consistency may be essential information as well. Additionally, berating or incoherent texts, emails, or voice messages received from a spouse who is a substance abuser can also serve as evidence. Adverse actions displayed by the spouse who is a substance abuser can be used by the court to make decisions as well. The spouse who is the non-substance user may be allocated the majority of parental responsibilities.

Preparing Financially The spouse who is the non-substance user should plan financially for life after divorce. Working with a skilled family law attorney is the first step towards achieving this goal. Separating out bank accounts, credit cards and other financial accounts may be a good first step to ensuring accessible necessary resources for support for the family and non-using parent. If there are children involved and the sober spouse is not employed due to being the sole care-taker for the children, it is recommended to research resources and agencies or colleges which provide job training and childcare. There are plenty of free or reasonably priced resources for women in need of childcare while they are in search of work, job training or want to pursue their education.

Leaving One’s Home and Informing Others Leaving one’s home safely is one of the ways to mitigate the stress that comes with divorcing a substance abuser. Leaving children in a volatile environment is risky, so one should remove the children to a safe environment. A spouse who has decided to divorce a substance abuser will need the support of others when going through the process. Therefore, he or she should discuss the decision and situation with friends and family members. Such a support system can be contacted in times of emergencies and even provide a safe place to stay when the need arises.

Contacting an Attorney A person divorcing a spouse with addiction issues should ensure their attorney is aware of the addiction and the financial and personal behavior that arose from the same. Stay focused on the goal and the evidence.

It is important to note that many parenting agreements fail to ensure true protection for their children. Ensuring language addressing the addiction and requirements for sobriety before spending time with the children is paramount to their emotional and physical safety, Choosing the right attorney under such circumstances is critical for your own safety as well as the safety of your children.

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