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Being married to an addict can be heartbreaking. On one hand, you understand that addiction is a disease and you have sympathy for your spouse. On the other hand, you ultimately have to practice the art of self-preservation — especially when you have children.

Once you’ve made the difficult decision to divorce, the next thing you have to consider is the prospect of asking the court for sole custody of your children. According to the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, addiction has numerous consequences on someone’s ability to parent, including:

The possibility of neglect

Addicts often fall short on their parental responsibilities for multiple reasons. They may abandon their children at home for hours at a time while they’re in search of a fix. Or, they may simply lose track of what they’re supposed to be doing and fall asleep instead of attending to the kids.

The potential for violence

Some addictions can lead to violence. Alcoholics, for example, can have blackouts where they are violent or raging fits during withdrawal. Cocaine addicts can become paranoid, impatient or angry — and lash out at the kids over perceived failings or slights.

The likelihood of investigation

It isn’t uncommon for protective services to get involved in homes where there’s suspected drug or alcohol use. That can turn your life upside down, especially if the agency takes the children into custody while they check into the situation.

The fear of an overdose

Overdoses happen — and not just to parents who happen to be addicted to drugs. Children sometimes get into their parent’s stash of drugs by accident, with tragic results.

Asking for sole custody of the children can be hard — but it may be the only right thing to do in your situation.