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Father is thinking about divorce; mother is out partying and addicted to prescription drugs

Your Question:
My wife of 15 years and I were blessed 5 years ago with twins. I began to notice a change in her personality and a withdrawl from family activities about a year ago. I began to smell smoke on her breath and asked if she had started smoking, she replied "I just smoked one and that's it",that was over a year ago and she has smelled of smoke daily since but has seen fit to lie about it until recently. I noticed that she had begun to dress differently, had re-kindled friendships with some of her not so desireable high school friends, listened to different music, spent very little time with the kids,and was very moody. I began to do a little investigating on my own and found that she had been talking to and on occassion meeting another man, I also found that she had prescriptions for pain killers filled in my name. I am attempting to get custody of my children and would appreciate ANY advice and prayers you could give. Thanks.

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing.

You're in a position where you have an opportunity to do everything RIGHT to ensure the kids' interest is protected.

I asked you to respond to some questions so I could get futher details (not posted), so other readers shouldn't think that I'm some mind-reader. This response considers those other details. My biggest piece of advice is to read what I have to say on THIS PAGE and get that book for yourself (i.e., Amazon, library, bookstore, whatever). Send it to work and never keep it at home. I created that page to explain why, so when you're done reading my response, take that link.

The most important thing you should be establishing is that you are the most involved, reliable, and responsible parent. A successful custody case must be able to demonstrate this through evidence and witnesseses. How do you get that evidence and build that case?

  • Do as much transporting to and from school as possible. If you go into a custody evaluation, you want teachers to tell your evaluator, "Oh yeah, we see Dad all the time. He's great."

  • Do as much of the parenting at home as possible. Baths, bedtimes, discipline, meal preparation, clothes shopping. Document it (discussed later).

  • Be present at health appointments.

  • If you're able, approach your boss and negotiate a work schedule that gives you greater opportunity to be with the kids. E.g., reduce hours by 10% for a 10% pay cut.

  • Make sure neighbors see you with the kids, plenty. Arrange playdates with other parents.

  • Secretly see a psychologist once a week and discuss your candid concerns about the mother and how you're trying to understand everything she's doing. This person could be an expert witness to testify that she/he met with you 10 times and that you're stable and seem very devoted to your kids' welfare.

Start to really document when you're with the children. You can use special secure software to do it (like on that linked page above), you can create an Excel spreadsheet (but not if your wife shares the computer), or you can just keep it in a little journal that never leaves your possession. The documentation just needs to be as simple as, "Sept 1, 2005-- picked up kids 12pm and cared for them until 6pm. 7:30pm, got them ready for bed and put them to bed at 8pm."

Let your wife continue in her behavior. Document it all in an organized fashion (e.g., create an index page of everything you're gathering, with a sentence as to what each thing shows). You're going to want to hand this all over to your attorney, and what you may think is relevant/irrelevant may be just the opposite of what an attorney may think (e.g., unless a doctor has diagnosed your kids as being extremely threatened by cigarette smoke, that smoking issue is totally irrelevant to custody).

I asked you about your finances. You seem to have enough resources to take the following approach:

  • If your state of residence is the same place listed as the location of the website from which you wrote me, it's my understanding that you live in a one-party recording state. Verify this, though. If you are in a one-party state, you can secretly record your conversation with another person. When I asked you about the worst things your wife has done as a parent, two of your answers regard what comes out of her mouth. Invest in a small voice recorder that you can easily have in your pocket (make sure it records okay through fabric). Record some of the things your wife says/yells in front of the kids. If you capture some very disturbing things, and if it happens frequently (i.e., many recorded examples), this alone would give you a strong case.

  • Find a good private investigator in your area, prior to filing anything or advising your wife that you're preparing for divorce (i.e., at which point, she may suddenly straighten up). It's one thing to snoop on your own. It's other to have a credible investigator take the stand and say he saw Ms. Smith routinely drinking numerous drinks in a bar and drive away (i.e., saftey issue). An investigator will know how to build evidence to be used in court... e.g., photos of her going into a pharmacy and fraudulently fueling her addiction to painkillers (i.e., many judges could believe that addiction interferes with parenting). Go into your local police/sheriff's department for a referral. Also, here's a P.I. (and author) who may know someone in your area... his website.

  • Interview numerous lawyers, and only the ones who you believe are very experienced IN YOUR COUNTY (i.e., a good lawyer with 20 years experience, but only 1 year in your county isn't one who will know the local judges or evaluators). I wrote a post about lawyers... CLICK HERE. Also consider that every attorney you interview (regardless of whether you retain him or her) cannot later represent your wife, due to conflict.

  • After you file your action, depose your wife. Give your attorney all your ammo to ask about. You want to lock in her testimony as to her involvement with the kids (and yours), her inappropriate and irresponsible behaviors, her belief that you're a good father, etc. I had first-hand experience in watching the three depositions of my ex, and they have been invaluable (i.e., the transcripts are admissable as evidence, and I've used at least fifty excerpts from them in various hearings as indisputable evidence of my position). A deposition is very different than a written pleading, because there is no time to really think about the best answer possible for one's position. So, you want a family law attorney who believes in the value of depositions as part of his/her skillset.

  • If you head into a custody evaluation, that's another post for another day. You're not saying that your wife is a nut, so it may be overkill to do psychological evaluations. She's just being irresponsible and immature, it seems.

Above all, always make decisions that are best for your children. There's so much pain in divorce, and while anger is understandable; dealing with the wife is wholly separate from dealing with the children's mother. Spend some time really thinking about a post-separation scenario that would be best for the children, and that will be your guiding light throughout this.

I do not believe that it's unjust to hold a person fully accountable for his/her decisions and actions. To that end, hiring an investigator to draw attention to your wife's character is not immoral, however slimey some may consider it. If you can hold her feet to the fire and at the end of every day also say, "I have not spoken one mistruth about her actions," that is the aggressive yet respectable approach that can win a case without ever sacrificing your integrity.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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