How to have the best divorce possible

Because divorce is divided into only two categories (fault and no fault), people tend to gravitate towards wanting to call their divorce a “fault” divorce. I can understand. When a marriage disintegrates, there is a lot of anger and hurt feelings, so it’s soothing to somehow find a way to make your divorce say “it was all his fault!” for you.

In the olden days, it used to be that you only could get divorced if there was some kind of fault—usually, adultery. Today, adultery is probably still the most common fault-based ground I see, and almost all the women I talk to want to file on adultery, at least initially.

Even though it may be tempting to file for divorce based on his fault, you’ll have to ask yourself, and keep asking yourself throughout the process, whether the juice is worth the squeeze. Remember: this isn’t about punishment, or the “principle” of the issue. This is about what you’ll have left after your divorce to rebuild your life.

It costs a lot more to get a divorce based on fault. Why? Well, mostly because you’ll have to go to court (whereas if you were pursuing a no-fault divorce, you’d probably end up settling out of court by agreeing to the terms of a separation agreement) and actually PROVE that your fault grounds exist. When you have a no fault divorce, you don’t have to prove anything—and your husband can’t sign an agreement agreeing to a divorce on fault-based grounds. The only way to get a fault-based divorce is to go to court and prove it. That costs money.

Where does the money come from? Well, usually, it comes from the marital assets, and by the time you pay for an attorney, he pays for an attorney, and you fight it out in court, you have significantly less to divide between the two of you. Thought you may want as little as possible to go to him, you probably also want to keep as much of it for yourself as possible, too.

If you’re considering pursuing a fault-based divorce, you should talk to your attorney first. Ask your attorney whether he (or she) thinks that you’ll ultimately get more out of your divorce if you pursue fault, or whether it would be better to begin with thinking about negotiating a separation agreement. Listen carefully to the pros and cons of each of your possible courses of action, and, together, make the best decision you can make. Always keep in mind that divorce is mostly about providing you with your share of the marital assets so that you’ll be able to make a life for yourself after your final divorce decree is entered. The best divorce is usually one that keeps the relationship between you and your ex as amicable as possible (especially if there are children involved), and that preserves as much of the marital money as possible for the people who earned it: your husband, and, most importantly, you.

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