June 1, 2017

Divorce – Not the Place to Get Revenge

Divorce – Not the Place to Get Revenge

 “Your wife also wants you to rot in hell for eternity, but I think that’s negotiable” reads the caption on a cartoon of a lawyer speaking to his client which has hung in my office for the past fifteen plus years.  The cartoon has the intended result – a smile or a laugh from a client or even a tension reliever during an otherwise stressful meeting.

But there’s also an important substantive message in the cartoon – let reason and mindfulness, rather than emotion, determine your divorce goals.   The most aggressive trial lawyer with the biggest bankroll can’t transport the other spouse to hell at all much less an eternity.

Over the past thirty years I’ve counseled many clients whose spouse was unfaithful against focusing too much on punishment and revenge.  I’m not soft on adultery or afraid of a fight.  But here in Connecticut our divorce laws don’t provide much of a basis for punishing bad marital behavior, especially cheating.    The cause of the divorce is only one of many factors that are considered in the financial arrangements of a divorce – alimony and property settlement – and frequently not given much weight.    Under Connecticut divorce law, a spouse can’t even be penalized for wanting to end the marriage or rewarded for wanting to continue the marriage.

Understandably, an injured spouse may enjoy exposing every nitty gritty detail of the affair or watching the other spouse’s lover squirm under hours of embarrassing deposition questions.  But the fees of private investigators, other witnesses and lawyers make temporary enjoyment expensive. And it’s not money well spent.  Much of that evidence might not be admitted into court.  Even if it is, it may not make a significant impression on a judge who has heard many cases involving adultery, including some outrageous ones.

The bottom line then is that sometimes an unfaithful spouse receives alimony for many years.  Other times an innocent spouse committed to the marriage must sign the house or other substantial asset over to the adulterer.  Although the law and such a result may not feel fair, nevertheless it is the law.  It doesn’t make sense then to devote your valuable time and emotional and financial resources fighting that reality.

Instead, you and your lawyer should work together to develop an effective strategy to create a resolution that allows you to get on with your life and maintain a positive relationship with your children.  Getting sidetracked seeking punishment and revenge through the legal system doesn’t help reaching those goals.

This article was published in the May 18, 2017 edition of The Cheshire Citizen.

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