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Divorce and Property Division: Am I Entitled to More Because my Spouse Ruined Our Marriage?

From Roseann Vanella’s blog.

There are a lot of reasons why couples decide to get divorced. Financial troubles, lack of communication, continual arguing, unrealistic expectations, lack of intimacy, infidelity, and abuse are among the more common reasons why couples split up. Sometimes, both spouses are partially to blame for the breakup, while in other cases, the divorce is triggered primarily by the actions of one of the spouses.

Many people believe that if they were not the ones who caused the divorce, they should not have to share in equitable distribution or pay spousal support (if this type of support is applicable in their case). For example, if one of the spouses was unfaithful and that is the event that triggers the divorce, shouldn’t that spouse be penalized by receiving less of the marital estate?

The short answer to this question is “no” in most cases. This is because every state in the US has what is called a “no-fault” divorce, and this is the reason that is used in the vast majority of divorce cases. 

A couple seeks a no-fault divorce in New Jersey based on “irreconcilable differences”, which is a shorthand way of saying that the marriage is broken beyond repair and there is no reasonable chance that the couple will be reconciled. And with a no-fault divorce, there is no basis for which to penalize either of the spouses for whatever acts they may have committed. 

In other words, in a no-fault divorce, it doesn’t matter who did what. If your spouse was cheating on you, for example, it is a reprehensible act of betrayal. But because the divorce is no-fault, your spouse is still allowed to share in equitable distribution.

You may think this is unfair; but consider that if you have reached the point where your marriage is irretrievably broken, chances are it is not exclusively because your spouse “ruined” your marriage. If everyone is being honest, both spouses usually bear some responsibility for their marriage reaching the point where it is about to be dissolved. It may be difficult to realize this at first, but after a little time passes and the emotions are removed, spouses are often able to see the situation more clearly. 

Divorce Mediation for No-Fault Divorces

Couples who have decided their marriage is over can make their divorce go much more smoothly by settling the issues that need to be resolved through mediation. Divorce mediation is an increasingly popular alternative to traditional litigation that allows spouses to work out the terms and conditions of their divorce together with the help of a professional, third-party mediator.

Mediation does require cooperation between the spouses and a willingness to compromise on some issues. This does not mean you have to agree on everything, you just need to be civil with each other and have reasonable expectations. If you and your spouse are able and willing to do this, you can complete your divorce for a fraction of the cost of litigation while crafting an agreement that is far more tailored to your specific needs than what you would normally end up with in court.

If you believe your spouse’s actions ruined your marriage, you may be understandably skeptical of a process like divorce mediation. But it is important to keep in mind that even a contentious marital breakup can be settled with mediation, as long as both spouses are willing to work together toward a more positive outcome. 

The key is to try to put past hurts behind you as much as possible and look towards the future benefits of settling your divorce in a more peaceful manner. For example, if you and your spouse have children together, then you will probably have to maintain some type of contact with your spouse for the rest of your life. This being the case, it is better for everyone involved (especially the kids) if you and your spouse can part on good terms.


Roseann Vanella

Roseann Vanella’s experience and credentials alone set her apart from other professional mediators in the state. She has an extensive business and financial background, and worked for many years in a corporate setting. Roseann is also very personable, down-to-earth, and she is truly passionate about her work. Having been through… MORE >

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