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Married father of four kids wants divorce due to wife's drinking and adultry

Your Question:
I am the father of four children (16,14,12,9) and have been married 19 years. My wife has been a clinically depressed alcoholic for the last ten. The last three years before she got into AA were hell and she basically abandoned us. Now she is sober (about 11 months), with three relapses and I have found out that she has had two affairs in the last year. She is still in one now. She is asking for a divorce and wants 50/50. I want sole custody because that is how it has been and I love my kids deeply. I do not want a divorce if she is willing to work on these problems, but she does not. She is very hostile. What are my chances in PA? Should I file first?

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My Answer:

I have no idea what your chances are, nor would anyone except for your judge. So many factors go into a custody decision.

I suggest you find a family law attorney who has practiced at least 10 years in your county.

If you have been the primary caretaker of the children, it's quite possible that you may get immediate orders for the mother to vacate the familial home, pending further order of the court.

I think it makes sense for you to file first and request that.

As the biggest part of your argument, you'd outline the recurring alcoholism. Active alcoholism is the most influential factor in custody decisions, according to child custody research conducted by Marc Ackerman.

The affairs aren't really relevant to child custody, unless they're in some way directly harming the children (e.g., she's with a violent guy who smacks around the children). When making custody decisions, judges don't care about the quality of the spouse-- they only care about the quality of the parent (i.e., it's possible that a person can commit adultry, yet be a caring parent).

If you yourself have no major issues with drinking, drugs, crime, or violence; you are in a much better position than she is.

I'd suggest you start interviewing attorneys today. If she's asking for a divorce, it would be a good thing for you to assume that she's already talking with an attorney and may file at any point.

Also, you may wish to hire a private investigator to follow mom around for a few evenings. If the P.I. gathers evidence that she is still drinking, you've got your evidence of active alcoholism. If the P.I. shows drinking and driving, your case gets even better. If the P.I. documents her with her new boyfriend, while you're at home parenting the kids, your case gets better.

In short, if the private investigator gets some good dirt on your wife, you may find that you'll settle this thing out of court and get much of what you think is best for the kids.

But above all, my biggest advice is to start talking with attorneys and retain one within the next several days and have a game-plan with that attorney.


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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