Marital Estate Division: Does it matter what a horrible person my soon-to-be-ex was?

October 21, 2022

It’s natural to want justice when your spouse has been hurtful during a divorce. But unfortunately, the court won’t award you more assets just because your ex cheated, lied, or was emotionally draining. The question I am asked very frequently is can the Court punish my ex for being a jerk? The answer is probably no. Here’s what you need to know about how marital estate division works:

The Marital Estate: What It Is, What It Isn’t

Your marital estate consists of all assets (bank accounts, retirement plans, property) and debts (mortgages, loans) acquired during the marriage. The court’s primary goal is to divide this estate fairly, not to punish bad behavior.  The idea of punishment is not in the law that directs the Court on how to divide the marital estate.

When Bad Behavior Does Matter in a Marital Estate Division

There are two limited cases where the court might consider your spouse’s conduct:

  1. Dissipation of Assets: This means deliberately wasting or hiding marital assets as the marriage ends (e.g., gambling away savings, transferring property to a friend for no value). Proving dissipation can be complex and costly, and the offending spouse may receive a smaller share as a result.

  2. Criminal Actions: If your spouse commits a crime against you that results in financial losses (e.g., medical bills from an assault), the court may consider this when dividing assets.

Focus on What Matters

Emotional pain, while real, won’t sway the judge. Dwelling on your spouse’s misdeeds will only prolong the process and increase legal costs. Instead, prioritize negotiating a fair settlement. Remember, the court is focused on dividing the marital estate, not punishing your ex.

The Benefits of a Negotiated Settlement


  • Control: You have more say in the outcome.
  • Cost: You avoid expensive legal battles and potentially costly investigations.
  • Healing: You can move on sooner rather than prolonging the conflict.

Let’s Work Together

I understand the anger and hurt that comes with divorce. Let’s focus on a strategy that protects your financial interests and allows you to start fresh.


If you can move past how your spouse has hurt you and decide to focus on settling your case with your-soon-to-be-ex, reach out. You can call me or contact me on my website.


Reminder: The information shared in this blog post is not legal advice. If you require legal assistance, it is essential to consult with an attorney who specializes in the relevant area of law.