What Role Does Adultery Play in a New Jersey Divorce?
By Snyder & Sarno on January 06, 2014
Many people file for divorce because his or her spouse committed adultery. When that happens, very often the following question comes up: what role will the act of adultery play in my New Jersey divorce? Frequently, the person who asks this question is hoping for a monetary award or an advantage when property is distributed or alimony is decided. However, the fact of the matter is that, generally, adultery does not play a large role in a New Jersey divorce other than when pleading a cause of action, or reason for the divorce.
One of the first decisions you will have to make once you decide to obtain a divorce will be to choose your cause of action. If your spouse has committed adultery, then you can use that for your cause of action. If you choose to file for divorce because of adultery, then you will have to name the person with whom your spouse had an affair as a co-respondent, in addition to the dates, times, and places of the affair. That person must be served, and he or she must have an opportunity to appear in court and respond. This can create hostility and may be emotionally taxing on all of the parties involved.
The fault-based adultery cause of action requires you to prove more than a no fault cause of action. For instance, the no fault cause of action based on irreconcilable differences requires only that you plead that for a period of six months, you and your spouse have experienced irreconcilable differences that have led to the breakdown of the marriage and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Therefore, to spare your time and emotional health, it may be worth it to plead a no fault cause of action, especially because the cause of action that you choose will not affect the outcome of your New Jersey divorce.
Once you decide which cause of action to plead in your divorce complaint, the adultery will not play a large role in the decisions going forward because New Jersey is a “no fault” divorce state. Therefore, generally, New Jersey courts do not take marital fault into consideration when making decisions about property division or alimony awards. Usually, the only type of marital fault that is taken into consideration is the type dealing with money, for instance where a specific fault has impacted the value of the marital estate.
Property division is meant to distribute the property equitably, but not necessarily equally, between the two spouses. Alimony is meant to assist the financially dependent spouse to maintain the standard of living experienced during the marriage. Neither property division nor alimony is used for purposes of punishment for bad conduct during the marriage.
If you plan on filing for divorce because your spouse committed adultery, it is important for you to speak with an experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer who can discuss the above information with you in more detail in order to determine how you should proceed. If you have questions about your New Jersey divorce, please contact the attorneys at Snyder & Sarno at (973) 274-5200.
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