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Needing to Blame A Spouse - Expensive and Shuns Mediation

Having completed a 4-day contested divorce trial, I look back with the eyes of a litigator and a Rhode Island divorce mediator, understanding why this case never settled in mediation. The wife's driving motivation was assessing blame.

The parties owned no real estate. The wife received disability and was seeking child support and alimony from the husband who earned $54,000 annually. Her subsidized rent was 30% of her income (child support is not considered income though and alimony is).

Trial days included testimony from the wife and her daughter blaming the husband was the cause of the divorce. She testified that he was an alcoholic (he denied), he misused prescription drugs (he denied), and he would not help around the house. She accused him of sleeping all of the time and being lazy.

He admitted to occasional drinking but not to the degree she portrayed. He did use pain medication and did not follow the correct schedule. He worked overtime as the marriage fell apart, so that for several years, his gross income was 40% more than his base salary. He worked second shift so he saw his daughter in the morning but he left for work before she came home from school and would not see her until the next morning.

The husband said that the marriage fell apart when the wife came home from major surgery first sleeping on a bed in the daughter's room and then in the living room; she never returned to the marital bedroom. He said that he became depressed.

Both stories sounded plausible. The key testimony that I heard concerned her car accident when she backed out of the driveway and hit a parked pickup truck. She blamed the husband for allowing the insurance to lapse (although she wrote the majority of the checks from the joint account at that time) and she blamed the truck owner for parking where he should not have been. She never accepted responsibility for her own actions - for backing out without looking. She rationalized in her mind a story so that she would not consider herself responsible.

She could not accept responsibility for her own actions of moving out of the marital bedroom and the distance that it caused and the husband's resulting depression.  The parties worked with a Court mediator. The trial seemed important for her to publically blame her husband and refute all responsibility for her actions. The Judge split the assets 50/50, reduced the child support by $33/week (Guidelines) and awarded alimony so that she received $84 per year more than he voluntarily paid before and $1,852 less a year than had been offered in mediation and pre-trial negotiations.

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Law Office of Steven J. Hirsch, Esq

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