Divorce is a Business Transaction: It’s all about the money

The number one issue in a divorce is money, even though you may think it’s something different. If you go in front of a judge, his (or her) primary concern is going to be how to divide the assets, liabilities, and responsibilities equitably between the parties. I’ve heard a judge say, “To me, this is a business transaction.”

Though you may have filed for divorce on some fault-based grounds, and even though you probably have some specific grievances against your husband for his behavior towards you during the marriage and after your separation, the court probably won’t really address these things.

Even though these things matter to you, and contributed to the ultimate breakdown of the marriage, they don’t really factor that much into how property should be distributed. In Virginia, property is distributed in accordance with our equitable distribution statute. Under equitable distribution, the court CAN take fault into account when determining how property will be divided (because fault is a negative nonmonetary contribution that aided in the breakdown of the marriage), but you should be prepared for the very real possibility that it probably won’t change anything at all.

To the judge, the issue is how to take care of both of you as well as possible after the divorce. The judge isn’t really interested in punishing one or the other of you for what you may have done during the marriage. Though your standard of living will probably go down, because it’s hard to have as much money when you’re living separately as you did when you combined forces, you both deserve to maintain as similar a standard of living as you enjoyed during the marriage as possible.

It will be best if you accept, at the beginning, that fault won’t play that large of a role and you go into court or your negotiations with a clear head. Think about what you have, what you’ll need, and different ways of dividing things to accomplish your goals. Your time will be much better served than if you concentrate on all the ways he’s done you wrong and how you’d like the judge to make him pay.

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