A Word about Divorce Guilt

By: Adrienne Rothstein Grace
Last Update: December 11, 2017

Don't let divorce guilt influence your financial settlement.

In the ending of any marriage, there is enough fault and blame to go around. You may feel that your spouse was the one who broke trust. She or he certainly may have done that- broken promises, had an affair, or done worse. You may have been the one who engaged in angry spending, or did any of the hundreds of things we can do to hurt each other in an unsatisfying relationship. If it was you, your first instinct may be to give up your financial interest in the settlement, to 'make up' for your wrongdoing; please don’t. Your divorce settlement is not a good way to expiate divorce guilt or the sins committed during your relationship.

Don’t let your emotions get in the way of securing a financial future for you and your children. If you feel you were the injured party, keep in mind that a divorce is also not an effective way to exact retribution.

I often hear, "the judge will see what bad things he/she did to me, and will give me more of our assets."   Unfortunately, no. In the short time that the judge has to review your settlement documents, or the volume of documents produced for a trial, fair is only what is equitable financially. Rarely is bad behavior included in the decision unless it has a substantial impact on the finances of the marriage.

Aside From Divorce Guilt, Don't Forget Wasteful Dissipation

What is wasteful dissipation? The definition is vague. It can consist of gambling, extravagant spending, really poor day trading, and bad business judgment which results in the loss of marital money. It could include purchases of gifts, travel and the entertainment of a "paramour," as well as other forms of financial or economic misconduct, like selling a business or any asset for less than it's worth. One recent case involved a husband who paid for college tuition for his girlfriend's daughter, without his wife's knowledge or consent.  Another case held that the wife's inability to document how she spent the proceeds of a home equity loan, suggesting that she spent the money in contemplation of the divorce. Such findings can result in a credit for half the amount of money 'dissipated' to the injured spouse.

Therapy can help you deal with the guilt, anger, and the remorse. Secure your finances, and then deal with the rest.


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