The Moneyist: Mother’s Day dilemma: My wife drinks too much, has never bathed our 7-year-old son and now wants a divorce

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Dear Moneyist,

My wife wants a divorce after 13 years of marriage.

She drinks too much and won’t stop for me and our child. She wants to wait three months before filing for divorce because she wants to record herself being the best mother she could be. Our child is seven and not one time did she ever get up to make him breakfast, dress him, bathe him, etc.

I have been there since Day 1 getting up all hours to take care of our child and I still do it. She changed her phone and blocked me on her social media. I’m worried that she drives drunk with my child. There’s no way I can call to see where my child is. Is that legal for her to do that?

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We both work and she complains she had to watch our child after school until I get home. Why would a mother complain about watching her own child? She takes Adderall for ADHD. I never wanted divorce for the sake of my child and I didn’t want to give up on the marriage.

We live in Rhode Island. I want to know where my child is and if he is OK when she leaves the house.

What should I do?

Broken Hearted

Dear Broken,

I’m sorry that you’re going through this. Any divorce lawyer or judge in a child-custody case will want to see evidence of irresponsible behavior.

You should know where your child is at all times and, assuming you’re now separated, your first priority should be to make sure your son is in a safe environment. Without an arrest record for drunken driving or some other conviction, it can be difficult to prove that your estranged spouse has a drinking problem. Witnesses (neighbors, child-care providers) may help.

Most states have a mechanism for parties to seek child custody on a permanent and/or emergency basis, says Andrew Brendle, a partner with Hull & Chandler law firm in Charlotte, N.C. “Emergency child custody typically arises when the child is exposed to a substantial and immediate risk of physical harm, sexual abuse, or at risk of being removed from the state’s jurisdiction.”

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It’s difficult to prove alcohol abuse, however, even when a parent is a heavy drinker. In this 2017 case, Fessler vs. McGovern, the mother alleged that the father of her child drank too much. However, the court ruled that there was no evidence that the father in this case drank while the child was with him, even though he drank nightly.

Brendle often advises parents to keep a record of anything and everything that relates to their child’s well being. “If you are taking the child to the doctor, taking the child to school, making arrangements for developmental milestones, etc., write it down somewhere,” he says. “If there is a confrontation with the other parent make a note of it as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Without an arrest record for drunken driving or some other conviction, it can be difficult to prove that your estranged spouse has a drinking problem.

“These notes, pictures, and documents will become important pieces of evidence in a custody trial if the parties are unable to reach an amicable resolution,” he adds. “In situations where there are allegations of alcohol abuse document the alcohol abuse as best you can to help prove the allegations/concerns when the time comes.”

Your estranged wife may wish to delay the divorce, but you can file for divorce anytime. It does not have to be by mutual agreement. What’s more you can state the grounds on which you are filing. If you do present evidence of your wife’s alcohol abuse, a judge may ask for regular blood tests or request your spouse undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

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Unfortunately, the holidays and the New Year is a popular time for people to initiate divorce proceedings. In fact, some divorce lawyers refer to the first Monday of the year as “Divorce Mondays,” and say there are 33% more divorce filings at that time. Many families decide to wait until after the holidays to pull the plug. They don’t want to spoil the holidays for the family.

I’m sure this has been on your mind. The best home for a child is a safe and happy home, and that can be achieved just as easily with one parent as two. Ultimately, any divorce or child-custody case will put both the safety and needs of your child first. I’m sure that’s what you want too. I hope you muster up the strength to take those first, difficult steps.

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Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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