“My spouse cheated on me. If I file for ‘fault divorce,’ am I likely to get more in terms of support and property?”
No, likely not. It is true that New Jersey has both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce; however, from a practical standpoint, fault will not play a major role in your divorce case. While the laws regarding alimony permit the court to consider fault in making an alimony award, over the years, the state has seen a steady de-emphasis on the concept of fault. At present, the courts rarely consider the allegations contained in the divorce complaint when setting alimony. Rather, the courts focus primarily on the financial circumstances of the parties, including financial need and the ability to pay alimony, and the length of marriage. Thus, although the concept of fault still exists on the books, it is only in rare instances that marital fault will be a consideration.Accordingly, barring extreme circumstances, your alimony will not be increased by the fact that your spouse cheated on you.
Furthermore, the presence or absence of marital fault is irrelevant to how marital assets will be divided, and it is not a factor in awarding child support. Therefore, neither your property rights nor child support will be increased by the fact that your spouse cheated on you. The bottom line is that marital fault, while an emotional issue for one or both of the parties in a divorce, will have little to no effect on the final resolution of your case.
William M. Laufer heads the matrimonial department of Laufer, Dalena, Cadcina, Jensen & Bradley, LLC in Morristown, NJ. He has been certified by the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys as a divorce mediator and has worked in the mediation process for over seven years. He can be reached at (973) 285-1444. View his Divorce Magazine profile.