Couples decide to get divorced for many reasons, but one of the most painful is when one person has been unfaithful. For the person whose spouse has cheated, it may be one of the worst betrayals that he or she ever will face. When a judge orders that alimony be paid to the person who cheated, the situation may get even worse. Many people simply do not understand how they can be ordered to financially support a cheating spouse, but the fact is that this is entirely possible in New Jersey.
Under established New Jersey law, one party’s fault has no impact on the award of alimony unless the conduct is so extreme as to be classified as egregious. Despite how devastating infidelity can be, it is clear that it does not rise to the level of egregiousness necessary to deny the payment of alimony to a person who otherwise would receive it. The case of Mani v. Mani, 183 N.J. 70 (2005) made this point very clearly.
In Mani, the court specifically included the fact that infidelity during the marriage was not an egregious act for the purpose of avoiding alimony payments. In describing what would be considered egregious enough to justify a denial of alimony, the court stated that acts that violated social norms, such as an attempt to have a spouse killed or purposefully infecting them with a terrible disease, were the level at which the court would deny necessary financial support. A recent case added theft of funds from a family business as egregious when the woman stole hundreds of thousands of dollars. See Clark v. Clark, 429 N.J. Super 61 (App. Div. 2012).
One of the main reasons for the court’s refusal to use adultery as the reason why alimony will not be awarded is the fact that courts are loathe to consider marital fault in the context of a divorce action. In fact, there are 13 enumerated factors that may be considered when determining what type of alimony to award, the duration of the payments, and the amount of the alimony, plus a catchall provision that enables the court to consider other relevant factors. None of the listed items addresses marital fault. See N.J.S.2A:34-23.
The fact that a spouse who remained faithful throughout a marriage has to make regular payments to someone who betrayed him or her in a fundamental way is very difficult to accept. It is important that a person has the right legal representation to make sure that he or she understands what to expect, what cannot be disputed, and how to fight for those things that are possible.
The Bronzino Law Firm Advocates Passionately for Its Clients
New Jersey Family Law Attorney Peter J. Bronzino knows that there are times when it is necessary to accept certain realities, but he works hard to ensure that his clients get a fair result in those issues that are within their control. The Bronzino Law Firm is located in Brick, New Jersey. We serve clients in Monmouth County, Ocean County, and the surrounding area. If you have questions about obtaining a divorce in New Jersey, or modifying a previously entered order, schedule a free consultation by calling us at (732) 812-3102.