In an effort to reduce much of the emotional toll of a divorce, NJ law is generally disinclined to use marital fault as a factor when making alimony determinations. Deciding which party is at fault for the breakdown can be a difficult, time consuming, expensive, and emotionally draining process when it is even possible to make such a finding. However, in recognition of the fact that extreme situations of marital fault may be present which do impact the financial standings of the parties, the NJ Supreme Court held that “egregious fault” can rightfully be considered by the trial judge. The seminal case of Mani v. Mani sets forth this proposition but did little to define what would constitute egregious conduct. In the case of Clark v. Clark the appellate court took a step forward by illustrating at least one example where marital fault may be permissibly considered when deciding alimony.
FAMILY LAW — SPOUSAL SUPPORT
20-2-8025 Clark v. Clark, App. Div. (Lihotz, J.A.D.) (23 pp.) We reversed the trial court’s award of alimony, holding defendant’s long-term scheme to embezzle more than $345,000 from the joint marital business while serving as the business’s bookkeeper led to plaintiff’s fault-based claim for divorce, caused more than a mere economic impact on the marital assets, and demonstrated the rare case of egregious fault justifying consideration of whether defendant’s marital misconduct obviated an award of alimony.