Divorcing a Spouse with Addiction Issues in Virginia

By | Published On: September 9, 2021

How do I divorce my spouse in Virginia when he/she has an addiction issue?

People suffer from many forms of addiction.  Some common ones are:

  • drug,
  • alcohol,
  • shopping,
  • gambling,
  • food-related,
  • exercise, and
  • sex.

If you are contemplating a divorce from your partner who has an addiction issue there are a lot of factors to consider.

First, you should talk to an attorney about gathering documentation on your spouse’s addiction.  This is especially important if you feel you need to leave your home for safety reasons as you might lose easy access to certain documents.

Once you have all the documentation you may need, you will need to decide how you wish to initiate the divorce process.

One option is to immediately file in Court.  Sometimes this is the only answer. Particularly if your spouse is unable to participate in the divorce process and you need to keep your family safe.

However, there are other (and many times better) options out there that you should also consider.  These include Collaborative divorce and attorney-directed negotiations.

Collaborative divorce can be a good option when dealing with substance abuse and/or addiction issues.  It gives each party access to coach(es), who are trained mental health professionals.  These coaches can help both parties work through the divorce process.  Divorce is an emotional process for anyone- with or without addiction.  Tacking on addiction issues makes it more complex.  A coach can be immensely helpful as additional support in this process.

Attorney-directed negotiations can be also successful depending on the situation.  For one reason or another, Collaborative divorce may not be a good fit for your family, but you still may want to work something out with your spouse outside of Court.  Your attorney can help negotiate custody and financial terms outside of Court.  If you have children, your parenting plan should include safeguards for your children depending on the type of addiction involved.

It’s important to explore all possible process options.  Each one has its pros and cons that you will want to weigh in the context of your case.

Every case involving addiction, substance abuse, or mental health concerns is different.  It is crucial to meet with an experienced attorney early on to create a plan for getting a divorce.


Emily Baker is a Senior Associate in FTLF’s Washington, DC and Northern Virginia offices.  She frequently practices in DC, Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax.

Learn more about the FTLF Team