I have personally been involved in cases where there is no equitable distribution as a result of an addiction. The cases that I’ve been involved in are typically involving substance abuse, but as I said before, there are definitely other types of addictions that can impair the marriage and ultimately, cause an erosion of the marital estate.
In New Jersey, we have a Supreme Court decision Manny versus Manny, wherein the court held that spousal support can be denied to a party in circumstances where there has been such extreme behavior that there’s a financial consequence as a result of the behavior. Now spousal support of course is not the same as equitable distribution of property, but the same principles apply, essentially what is fair and equitable. In New Jersey, divorces are handled in the the family part of the Chancery Division. And so you’re always in the Chancery Division looking for what’s fair and equitable, and so there are times when it may be fair or equitable to say if one party has completely eroded the marital estate or eroded it to such a extent that the other party can never be made whole by getting even all of the estate, then it would be appropriate to simply deny the addict any share of the assets so that the other party can be made as whole as possible.
Allison C. Williams is a matrimonial and family law attorney serving Short Hills New Jersey. Her practice places an emphasis on complex child welfare matters. www.familylawyersnewjersey.com