How to Divorce a High Functioning Alcoholic

Man in business attire covering his face in dismay while holding a glass of liquid.

Saint Patrick's Day may be a whole bunch of fun for some people, but for people who struggle with addicted partners, it can be a painful and difficult day. If you are in a relationship with a high-functioning alcoholic, March 17th may just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your partner’s struggle with alcoholism, and as much as you try to be there to support them through the difficult journey to sobriety, there is only so much that you can do as their partner. Divorcing a high functioning alcoholic can be a complex and emotional journey. It's not just about ending your marriage, but also navigating the challenges of addiction and its impact on your life. When considering divorcing your alcoholic partner, it’s important to have a plan in place that addresses both legal and emotional considerations. In this article, we'll walk you through practical tips and resources to help you navigate this difficult process with confidence.

What to Know Before Divorcing a High Functioning Alcoholic

If you are in a relationship with a high functioning alcoholic, you may be wondering how to begin the divorce process without causing emotional damage. It is natural to worry about the effects of your divorce on the people in your lives… especially your partner, and where you have concerns about their well-being within the marriage, it is logical to worry that a divorce might have an adverse impact on their sobriety journey. While the decision to divorce is a personal one, there are some things to consider if you are in this situation.

First, it is important to understand that high functioning alcoholics are often in denial about their drinking. They may not believe that they have a problem, or they may be in denial about the severity of their problem. This can make it difficult to get them to seek help for their drinking. If you decide to divorce a high functioning alcoholic, you will need to be prepared for them to deny that there is a problem and refuse to seek help. At this stage in your relationship, you have likely already spoken to them about therapy and they may have refused treatment.

Second, high functioning alcoholics often have a lot of shame and guilt around their drinking. They may feel like they are not good enough or that they do not deserve help. They might hide their habits by disappearing for long periods of time without explaining what they were doing or lying about how they’ve been spending money or time. High functioning alcoholics, especially, may not seem to have a problem to those on the outside, but intimate partners often see the signs before others because of their close proximity to their spouse. This can make it difficult for them to accept help from others, including spouses or partners who are trying to help them quit drinking. If you decide to divorce a high functioning alcoholic, you may need to be prepared for them to push away your attempts to help and resist getting help from professionals.

Third, divorcing a high functioning alcoholic can be complicated and messy. There may be financial issues involved, as well as custody issues if there are children involved. It is important to consult with an attorney before making any decisions about divorce so that you know what changes to prepare for and can work to make the transition from married to single as smooth as possible.

The Process of Getting a Divorce

Divorcing a high functioning alcoholic may have some differences in the minutia of the process but will likely still follow the path that most other divorces take. This process can become complicated if there are assets or children involved. You will want to consult with a knowledgeable divorce attorney about how to proceed. Divorce laws are different in every state so if you’re in Massachusetts, you will want to look for an experienced Worcester County divorce attorney or Plymouth County family law firm. Once you have filed for divorce, your lawyer will walk you through the steps that you should take next in regards to custody arrangements, assets, and rebuilding various aspects of your life. A certified high conflict relationship coach like Stacey Beale can help you through the emotional difficulties that you encounter while one of our many experienced family law attorneys will expertly navigate the legal process with you.

The Effects of Alcoholism on the Family

When someone in the family is struggling with alcoholism, it can have a ripple effect on everyone else in the household. Here are some of the ways that alcoholism can impact the family:

1. Relationship problems. If you’ve come to this article, you already know how devastating addiction can be on your partner’s relationships. Alcoholism can cause arguments and conflict within relationships. This is because alcohol can make people act in ways that they normally wouldn't, such as being more aggressive or emotional. Over time, this can breakdown the bond within the relationship and form trust issues and distance between partners.

2. Financial problems. Alcoholism can also put a strain on finances, as money is often spent on alcohol instead of other essentials. This can cause financial hardship for the family and lead to arguments about money.

3. Parenting difficulties. Alcoholism can make it difficult for parents to fulfill their role in the family. This is because alcohol can impair judgement and make it hard to think clearly or make decisions. As a result, parents may struggle to provide care and support for their children.

4. Health problems. Alcoholism can cause physical and mental health problems for both the person struggling with alcoholism and other members of the family. For example, someone with alcoholism may suffer from liver damage or mental health issues like depression or anxiety. Additionally, living with someone with alcoholism can be stressful, which can also impact mental health.

How to Help Someone With Alcoholism

If you are worried about someone you love who may be struggling with alcoholism, there are some things you can do to help. Firstly, and only if it is safe to do so, try to have a conversation with the person about your concerns. It is important to be respectful and non-judgmental in this conversation. If the person is open to talking about their drinking, then you can offer your support and encouragement of having an open dialogue. Listen to why they feel so drawn to alcohol and offer paths for moving forward through therapy or rehabilitation programs. If the person is unwilling to talk about their drinking, then you can still offer your support by staying in touch and being available if they ever want to talk. You can also look for support groups or counseling services that can help both you and the person struggling with alcoholism.


Having a high functioning alcoholic spouse can be challenging, and divorcing them often requires special care. With patience, diligence, and the right resources, you can divorce your spouse with minimal emotional or financial damage to yourself. By understanding the risks involved in dealing with an alcoholic partner, seeking out legal help from experienced professionals, and getting support from friends and family members throughout this process you are making sure that it is as painless for both parties as possible. Divorce does not have to be an agonizing experience; rather it can be part of a healing journey for both you and your soon-to-be-ex partner when handled properly.

For more resources, check out the national helpline linked below:

Related Posts
  • Is My Spouse Entitled To My Family Inheritance In A Divorce? Read More
  • Who Gets The House In A Massachusetts Divorce? Read More
  • Do I Need A Divorce Lawyer Near Me? Read More