Well, not exactly. There is really no such thing as winning or losing in a divorce case - and if anything, both parties lose, because a marriage and family are often falling apart. The real goal of a divorce, in my opinion, is to mitigate damage and stop the bleeding. I am referring to the damage that befalls your children and the wasting of marital assets due to protracted litigation.
Understand that New Jersey is a no-fault state.
What does that mean? Basically, your husband could be a scoundrel who has not been faithful a day in the last ten years. Or your wife could be a drunk who passes out every night after drinking a bottle (or two) of wine by herself. And it does not matter. At least, it does not matter to the Court. It does not matter how terrible your spouse was. Absent an extreme and compelling circumstance, bad behavior has no impact on the outcome of a divorce matter. So while karma is a bitch, it will not matter if your wife is too - she’s still entitled to get ½ of the marital part of your pension.
Pick and choose your battles.
If you wanted to, you could fight about everything. Can you believe that your ex has the nerve to ask for the kitchen pots and pans when she didn’t even want you to buy them in the first place? Many people spend significant amounts of time, energy, and resources fighting over unimportant things. The back-and-forth with the other side in a case is what drives up costs. Make your priorities your priorities, and put everything else (along with the pots and pans) where it belongs - on the back burner.
Come to court with clean hands.
I mean this both literally and figuratively. Your position will be infinitely stronger in the eyes of the Court if you are in compliance with all of your obligations, whether they are pendente lite (before the divorce is finalized) or post-judgment. It is hard to get the Court to empathize with your position if you’re in violation of your own agreement or Orders of the Court. While this seems like common sense, you would be astounded to know how many people argue that if their spouse is not doing what he or she is supposed to do, then the person shouldn’t have to do it either. That is not how it works. It is well established that “a suitor in equity must come to court with clean hands and must keep them clean after his entry and throughout the proceedings.” Hageman v. 28 Glen Park Assoc., 402 N.J. Super 43, 48 (2008) (homeowner who initially obtained stay of foreclosure sale based on blatantly false statements to court was precluded, under doctrine of unclean hands, from suing purchasers for alleged foreclosure scam). The unclean hands doctrine is “an equitable principle which requires a denial of relief to a party who is himself guilty of inequitable conduct in reference to the matter in controversy.” Glasofer Motors v. Osterlund, Inc., 180 N.J.Super. 6, 13, 433 A.2d 780 (App. Div.1981). The moral here? Make sure you are squeaky clean. And if you are not, make sure that you tell your attorney, way before you get to Court. The last thing you want to do is have an adversary spring something on your attorney to catch him or her unaware.
While these 3 tips may not “win” your case for you (remember, no winners and losers here), they may help you get through your divorce with less collateral damage. And what you save in counsel fees you can use to buy a new set of pots and pans, because you already let your ex have the other set. If you are going through a divorce, or have any questions, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.