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NJ Family Legal Blog Pertinent Information As It Relates To New Jersey Family Laws

ON TIGER, “INDISCRETIONS”, “INFIDELITIES” AND SO ON – ALL OF THE GOSSIP GIVES RISE TO A GREAT LAW SCHOOL EXAM QUESTION

Posted in Alimony, Custody, Divorce, Practice Issues

I have blogged several times about the celebrity divorces that have been in the news, from John & Kate, to Christie Brinkley, to Stephanie Seymour, to Jim Nantz, to the McCourts who own the LA Dodgers and others.

Every day for the last few weeks, Tiger Woods has been front page news regarding what he first called "indiscretions" and now calls "infidelity."  We have heard in the news about potential sweeteners to his prenuptial agreement if his wife stays, to rumors that she will leave him and so on .  Obviously, since the information from Tiger and his wife is limited, people are left to speculate and gossip.

 As a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer, the best that I can offer is to give some comments on how New Jersey divorce and family law would apply to the facts (hypothetical, speculation or true facts that have been reported). 

In New Jersey, marital fault is largely irrelevant except in limited circumstances.  Though not particularly necessary anymore since we have no fault (irreconcilable differences) divorce, the fault ground of adultery can still be plead as a divorce cause of action.  That said, receiving a divorce based on adultery does not get you anything more financially.

In fact, a few years ago, the Supreme Court reinforced this point in the case of Mani v. Mani where they held that absent extreme situations, fault is irrelevant to alimony and equitable distribution. The exception could be in marital funds were used to fund the affair.  Given that there appears to be a prenup, this would not likely be an issue for Tiger.

There is a question as to whether, in New Jersey, a pre-nuptial agreement could be modified.  Obviously, if the benefit in the new prenup is greater, perhaps it could be possible.  However, it would have to have same formalities as an actual prenuptial agreement.  There would seemingly have to be full disclosure.  However, an interesting issue that could put  jeopardize the enforceability of an agreement is that there seemingly would be no consideration for the agreement. 

However, while New Jersey looks very carefully at post-nuptial agreements, mid marriage agreements could be enforced in limited circumstances.  In those cases, the marriage would have to be on the precipice of termination and would not stay together but for the agreement. 

As to custody and parenting issues, infidelity does not usually have an impact on these issues.  That said, if someones conduct is so dangerous, destructive, reckless, etc. that it either evidences some psychological issue or the inability to parent, then perhaps it could impact custody.  I am in no way alleging or implying that that is the case here. 

Finally, I have had cases where the infidelity lead to an STD being transmitted from the philandering spouse to the innocent spouse.  Again, I am in no way alleging or implying that that is the case here.  In a recent case that I had where this occurred, we amended our divorce pleading to add tort causes of action. 

So with each day, as the gossip continues to fly, the potential family law issues implicated multiply.  Stay tuned to see what next occurs in this sad soap opera.