My Spouse Ruined Our Marriage, Do I Still Have to Give Up Half of the Marital Estate?

No matter what circumstances surround your divorce, you’re probably struggling right now. Your divorce probably feels particularly distressing if your ex-partner took a wrecking ball to your entire marriage, only to then demand half of everything you’ve worked so hard to build. In that situation, you may be wondering if you really have to give up an equitable share of the marital estate. 

We’re here to help. Learn more about divorce options in Alabama, and when you’re ready to move forward, call Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short at 334-821-3892.

Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce

If you’re concerned about property division, you’ll want to dig more into the differences between fault and no-fault divorce in Alabama. If your partner has caused the divorce solely through their mistreatment of you, you may be entitled to more spousal support or a greater share of the marital property if you can prove fault.

Fault-based divorce is not available in all states. Alabama is one of those that still recognizes this type of divorce. It involves asking for a divorce based on your spouse’s bad actions. 

Grounds for divorce in Alabama include:

  • Adultery.
  • Consistent drug or alcohol abuse.
  • An incurably incapacitated spouse.
  • Mental illness that caused your spouse to be institutionalized for at least five consecutive years.
  • Imprisonment for at least two years with a prison sentence of at least seven years.
  • Abandonment of the marriage.
  • Commission of a crime against nature.
  • Violence or cruelty toward you during the marriage.

As you can see, some grounds for fault divorce are very detailed, while others are less clear. Whichever reason you decide to go with this route, know that you will need to prove your claims. This can be difficult if you are trying to prove abuse, violence, or adultery, as perpetrators are often careful to cover their tracks.

No-fault divorce is the other option in Alabama. This involves one or both parties claiming that the marriage is irretrievably broken, but not because of either person’s actions. This type of divorce is generally quicker, less expensive, and legally less complicated.

How Fault Affects Property Division

If there is a substantial amount of property at stake, you may be considering filing for a fault-based divorce. Under these circumstances, a judge will look at both spouses’ behavior during the marriage and use it as a factor in determining how to divide property equitably. This can be favorable for a victim of abuse, adultery, mistreatment, or abandonment as they begin to pick up the pieces and move forward with their life.

Factors to Consider

Before you decide which route is best for you, know the risks and benefits of both options. No-fault divorce is generally quicker as neither party is legally responsible for the end of the marriage and there is no need to prove fault. On the other hand, fault-based divorce gives the judge the power to create a property division order in your favor, due to your spouse’s role in the divorce.

Fault-based divorce comes with some risks. First, you must know that you are able to prove your spouse’s misbehavior to a degree that would convince the court. This is something to discuss with your attorney as many people are surprised to find out just how much evidence they need. 

Second, fault-based divorce is often considerably more expensive than no-fault divorce. You may need to fight longer, which drives up attorney fees. If the property at stake isn’t worth a lot of money, you could end up spending more than any perceived benefit you would receive by pursuing a fault-based divorce. On top of that, fault-based divorce cases often involve going through the unpleasant details of your marriage in a public setting, which can be off-putting for those who value their privacy.

Divorce is complicated, especially when both fault and no-fault options are in play. It’s important to discuss your concerns, priorities, and goals with an experienced divorce attorney to protect your future and your property.

Rewriting Your Will and Restructuring a Trust

You may want to begin by rewriting your will and revisiting your trust. If you and your ex-partner have a trust that is to be passed to your children, your divorce agreement should address how those assets are split up. You can take your share of the assets and create a new trust that automatically transfers assets to a new trustee when you die.

Your will should indicate who is to make final decisions regarding your funeral and burial, but it should also have clear instructions for how you want these matters to be handled. This is important after divorce because it’s unlikely you still want your ex-partner to be making these crucial decisions for you.

Planning for Incapacitation

As you review your current estate plan, consider what will happen to you if you suddenly become incapacitated. Most married people have documentation ensuring that their spouse will take over healthcare decisions and financial power of attorney if they become incapacitated.

If you do not change this documentation, your ex-partner may be able to make this decision on your behalf if you are unable to care for yourself. Update all of your legal paperwork to ensure that the right person takes over your medical decisions and financial obligations if you become incapacitated.

This is an extremely important part of reviewing your estate plan after or during a divorce. Most people think about what happens after they pass away, forgetting that they could end up incapacitated after a serious accident or illness. To ensure that your wishes are respected, and your assets are handled properly in your absence, revisit these documents as soon as possible.

Looking Into Your Beneficiaries

You likely have a long list of accounts that pass to a listed beneficiary after your passing. This may include life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and pay-on-death accounts. This may be addressed in your divorce settlement, but it is important to change your documentation with each account as well.

Work closely with your divorce attorney to ensure that your new beneficiary listings are in line with what is outlined in your divorce plan—some couples choose to keep each other as a primary beneficiary after divorce in order to provide for minor children. Regardless of which route you go, sign new forms after your divorce to verify that you did review the paperwork and agree with it after the divorce.

Find Out How We Can Help

If you’re facing a divorce, don’t do it alone. Call the team at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short to set up a consultation and make a plan that suits you. Give us a call at 334-821-3892 or contact us online to get started.

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