How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Clare Your Own Question
Clare, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 34900
Experience:  I have been a solicitor in High Street Practice since 1985 with a wide general experience.
Type Your Law Question Here...
Clare is online now

My wife, and mother of 3 children aged 7, 5 & 3 is an alcoholic,

Customer Question

My wife, and mother of 3 children aged 7, 5 & 3 is an alcoholic, and getting worse. As a last resort I & her mum persuaded her to spend a month in the priory but that hasn't helped; since she'd been out she's been as destructive, deceptive and abusive as before. She is starting to drive after drinking now, was paralytic in front of my family on Christmas morning and spent the whole day in bed, and just 3 days later she's hammered again, being abusive to me in front of the children. It's been so horrendous for the last 3 years that I've kept a detailed diary (for the years before I just suffered in silence). I now think/realise she's a risk to the children - I need to protect them from her. I'm thinking divorce, but what can I do immediately?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Clare replied 4 years ago.
Thank you for your question.
My name is Clare and I will do my best to help you but I need some further information first.
Who actually deals with the day to day care of the children?
Are the schools aware of the problem?
Have Social Services ever been involved?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

My wife has dealt with the majority of day-to-day care of the children. I work from home at the moment, so I'm frequently involved in looking after the youngest while she does the school pick-up. I do the school drop off 3 days a week while she drives the youngest to nursery, and I do bath time & bedtime stories every night. I had a nanny come in to help her get a better structure in place because basic things like her eating with the children just wasn't happening, and as her drinking has become progressively worse I've had to take over most of the shopping now too. Now that 2 of them are at school, "day-to-day' care is mostly about entertaining the youngest.

The school is not aware of the problem, though some parents may have an inkling (at a playdate in December at our house, my wife 'went missing', my 19yr old niece who happened to be with us for a few days took over the supervision, and I found my wife staggering around outside having drunk loads - she subsequently chatted to one of the parers who came later to pick their child up, and i can't believe they wouldn't have smelt the alcohol).

Social services have not been involved, and I have no wish to involve them (the scare stories are too terrifying). I've been trying to help my wife sort herself out, but it's got to the pout where I've run out of ideas, she's been too awful to me too many times, and now her drinking is encroaching into the day, which puts them at risk, especially if they have to be driven somewhere.

I don't see any future for us as a husband and wife, and it seems to me that the children would not be safe within her care. I want custody of them, and for her to have supervised access.

Expert:  Clare replied 4 years ago.
Does she ever drink and drive?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

she has started doing that , yes.

On bonfire night, she took the 2 older girls to a display, and on the way back stopped at the local shop, bought a bottle of wine, drank some of it, before driving the short distance home. I was livid because the girls were in the car with her.

On the day before Christmas Eve, she'd been drinking secretly in the afternoon, then insisted on collecting her mum (about 20 mins away). Her mum suspected she'd been drinking when she arrived, but got in the car with her anyway; later she said the journey to our house had been terrifying. My wife admitted later that she had been drinking before she'd driven.


Expert:  Clare replied 4 years ago.
Are you now willing to end the marriage?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Yes. She's on a path of self-destruction, and even though she's aware of her problem, she's not doing anything to help herself. She's spurned the help of the priory (£15k wasted), doesn't go to counselling, lies to everyone, and insists that her own 'will-power' can sort things out.


I think the reason I've put up with it for so long is that I've wanted to believe that she would get better, but it's clear that that won't happen.


In the past I've been afraid that if we divorced, she'd get main custody of the children, so I'd actually be doing them a dis-service by divorcing, and letting them live in a more toxic environment. At least if I'm there, I can protect them.

Now however, as things are getting worse, it's imperative that I get main custody, before anything harmful occurs, and I would find it hard to believe that this would not be granted. I'm praying that common sense would prevail.


Expert:  Clare replied 4 years ago.
From what you have said I remain unclear as to who actually deals with the feeding of the children and s currently looking after them whilst they are not at school.
This is a crucial question - so be as realistic as you can about the answer.
Also is her mother likely to support you if you apply for a Residence Order?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Her mother will support me, yes. She can see how bad things are, and is mortified by her daughter's behaviour, and is thinking about what's best for the girls.


Breakfast is shared - sometimes me, sometimes her. Lunch is only for the youngest, which she does. Tea is always her. Bathtimes is 95% me.


I am also the one who tries to set the structure, e.g. getting them out of nappies, getting them to dress themselves, trying to always eat with them, just basic things that she doesn't give much thought to.



Expert:  Clare replied 4 years ago.
You cannot force your ex to leave the property unless there is a court order as a result of violence or as part of the financial side of divorce proceedings.
You will need to take a two fold approach in order to deal with all of the issues
You need to start divorce proceedings based on her Unreasonable behaviour so that if necessary decisions can be made about what will happen to the house.
At the same time you need to make a Residence Application to the courts in respect if the children based on your concerns about their mother's ability to care for them
Before starting this you should try and discuss matters with your ex using Family mediation ( to try and reach an acceptable agreement
I hope that this is of assistance - please ask if you need further details