Judges and courts aside, assignment of fault is a motivating factor in the reason spouses seek a divorce. Whether its an affair, lack of respect, domestic violence, falling out of love, or more subtle issues, “fault” is an issue in almost every decision to divorce. These feelings of “I didn’t break up the marriage, he/she did” are almost universal and often the motivation behind destructive behavior during the legal process.
Many clients feel that they must explain the reasons they want a divorce to their spouse, and this explanation includes a list of past sins. Confessing mistakes and shortcomings often makes people feel better (e.g., less guilty), and it can help them forgive themselves for their perceived failures in the marriage. This confession temptation bites early, but can continue throughout the case. By and large, the most popular sin confession is an affair.
Although admitting an affair may help you to feel less guilt, beware that it may be used against you in your divorce. It can be considered by most courts in dividing assets and determining spousal maintenance. Worse, it can add fuel to your spouse’s already burning fire of hurt, rage, and revenge. Discussing an affair with your spouse can have many beneficial psychological outcomes, but your motivations and timing should be considered carefully.
If you’re involved in an affair or other intimate-type relationship when you decide to divorce, put the relationship on hold until your case is finished. If the person with whom you’re involved cares about you, he or she can wait until your divorce is finalized to continue your relationship. It is not worth having an illicit relationship become part of your case. The court process also can put undue pressure on a relationship that might feel healthier and serve you better if timed appropriately. For another good article on how “fault” can impact the division of marital assets, see http://www.divorcenet.com/states/rhode_island/no_fault_divorce_in_ri. Terrific information on Equitable Distribution and Community Property Laws is also provided at
Excerpted from Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001). For more information: http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com/.
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