I write this post as Hurricane Irene batters the northeast, and tries to flood my basement. My night has consisted of my Wife and I taking shifts taking pales of water to our utility sink, aiding a sump pump that’s quite literally “in over its head.” I am thankful this is the worst we have had to endure from Irene. But perhaps it’s only natural, given these conditions, to write about the idea of “fault”–and how sometimes assigning blame is a less rewarding enterprise than one might first believe.
“Fault” Is Less Important in a New Jersey Divorce Than One Might First Believe
During an inital consultation, many clients wish to focus on the “fault” of the other party. “My Husband is a no-good drunken louse.” Or: “My Wife is having an affair and emotionally checked out of our marriage years ago.”
While it is understandable why so many New Jersey Divorce clients wish to focus on blame or fault for the breakdown of their marriage leading to divorce, notions of blame or fault often plays a smaller role in the outcome of the divorce than the clients or those unfamiliar with divorce in New Jersey would think.
New Jersey No-Fault Divorce
Although this was not always the case, today, New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state. This means that, practically speaking, it is possible to seek and be granted a divorce in New Jersey without having to prove fault. Although “fault” based grounds such as extreme cruelty and adultery are available, most New Jersey Divorce Complaints are filed as “irreconcilable differences.”
“Fault” and New Jersey Divorce
This “no-fault” philosophy also permeates the disposition of a New Jersey divorce case. Therefore oftentimes, there may be little or no benefit to filing a fault-based divorce rather than a no-fault divorce/irreconcilable differences divorce complaint.
New Jersey law is written so that “fault” will not generally play a role in determining alimony or equitable distribution. The example I always use is this: one party could have been the best spouse in the world. Someone who is unquestionably moral and wonderful in every way. Meanwhile, the other party could have been a philandering alcoholic, with a bad temper and an all-around poor disposition. And yet, when it comes time to determine each party’s share of equitable distribution, none of that would likely matter.
With a no-fault mentality (yes, even when fault can be proven) prevelent throughout New Jersey divorce law, there is often little benefit to trying to paint the other party as a “bad” guy or girl. Of course, in limited circumstances–such as when custody is in issue–notions of “fault” and “character” may be of supreme importance.
Also, please note that every case is fact-specific, so never assume “fault” or “character” will not be important in your case. Whether these concepts/issues will be of significant legal importance or not, it is important to review the reasons for the divorce, and any “fault/character” issues (for either party) with your attorney. Personality and the marital dynamic will likely be important in crafting a case-specific legal and/or negotiation strategy.
It is often impossible to separate the emotional from the legal in a New Jersey divorce case. All such issues should be reviewed with your attorney. Just note that fault will often play less of a role i
Your New Jersey Divorce Lawyer
If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options. You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.