Gambling Issues in a Divorce Context in New Jersey
Dealing with a Spouse with Gambling Addiction May Lead to Divorce and Carry Severe Financial Consequences
Compulsive gambling or gambling disorder generally refers to an individual who is unable to control the urge to gamble despite the many consequences. A person can form a gambling disorder through online gambling, poker, roulette, blackjack, slot machines (slots), or any other casino game. In addition, gambling may include sports betting and other forms of wagering money on unpredictable events, competitions, or games.
Similar to other addictions, the person suffering from this disorder will usually try to conceal their addiction for as long as possible or minimize any adverse effects. Gambling disorders can yield depression, anxiety, paranoia, unpredictable behavior, mood swings, and even violence. Financial crises and debt almost always accompany these symptoms. Compulsive gambling issues can ruin relationships and are capable of dissolving marriages. They may also become relevant in the process of divorce.
Deceptive tactics and reckless spending can complicate a divorce. Nevertheless, a skilled divorce attorney can help you prove the damage your spouse’s gambling caused to your marriage, stability, finances, and welfare. If you are facing a divorce and your spouse has struggled with a gambling addiction or habit that impacted your financial and personal life, you may be fraught with anxiety about the future and how to protect and preserve your future interests amidst the process of marital dissolution. The divorce attorneys at The Montanari Law Group understand your predicament and are prepared to assist you with all of the complexities that may impact your case as it proceeds. Call (973) 233-4396 or contact us online for a free consultation.
Collateral Damage of a Gambling Spouse in NJ
Gamblers’ spouses can also develop depression and anxiety. Spouses may be emotionally and physically abusive toward victims, compromising all aspects of their health and wellbeing. Living with someone suffering from addiction is no easy feat and usually arrives at a breaking point; in the case of marriage, filing for separation or divorce. In addition to spouses, children may be negatively affected by witnessing their parents’ gambling disorders unravel. Your child(ren) may suffer from anxiety, stress, and trauma from watching their parent struggle with compulsive gambling.
Flags Your Spouse May Have a Gambling Issue
Gambling disorders that have advanced are often characterized by lying or hiding the obsession. In addition, your spouse is likely attempting to obscure bank statements or block access to financial records. People with gambling problems often suppress receipts and other evidence of gambling activities. In some instances, your spouse might disappear without any explanation. Those suffering from obsessive gambling can lose track of time for hours, days, and even weeks. Individuals may attempt to bury hotel or casino stay evidence when these arenas are far from home.
Additional signs may include constantly discussing gambling, romanticizing aspects of gambling, and focusing only on their winnings. Such behavior may be observable or discoverable in text messages, emails, or social media comments sent to other gamblers and acquaintances. In addition, web history may reveal gambling websites, forums, and YouTube videos watching others gamble. Unemployment can often be a consequence of gambling disorders. Banks, loan agencies, and creditors may provide clues to debt issues through phone calls, voicemails, emails, and mailings.
Can Gambling Be a Reason to File for Divorce in New Jersey?
The state of New Jersey permits no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences. However, in some cases, one spouse’s behavior contributes significantly to the marriage breakdown. A fault-based divorce might be appropriate for you, depending on your circumstances. A marriage can be dissolved for many reasons, one being “extreme cruelty.” Many forms of extreme cruelty or inhumane treatment can arise from gambling disorders; physical, emotional, or mental abuse.
New Jersey recognizes extreme cruelty as one cause of the dissolution of marriage under 2A:34-2(c). Individuals with gambling disorders often put their spouses through extreme examples of emotional and mental abuse and, in some cases, physical abuse. Subsection (e) under the same statute addresses addiction to alcohol and narcotics; however, gambling addiction may also apply. As gambling disorder can cause severe consequences for spouses and children of addicts, gambling may be considered grounds for divorce in New Jersey.
It is important to note that if you file for divorce based on a ground other than irreconcilable differences, you may need to present additional evidence in your case. It is important to consult with an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney before deciding how to file.
Handling Gambling Debt and Equitable Distribution in a NJ Divorce
In New Jersey, dividing property is determined by “equitable distribution,” which means that the degree of fairness is determined based on each case’s circumstances. Alternatively, in states with “community property,” the courts divide property as nearly 50-50 as possible. Several factors contribute to equitable distribution including prenuptial agreements, the length of time you were married, the assets acquired during the marriage, property brought into a marriage, and the standard of living established during your marriage (to name a few). However, when a spouse anticipates a divorce, he or she may attempt to spend or disguise marital assets. Dissipation is typically attributed to poor business practices, supporting relatives with marital funds, or spending on extramarital affairs. Allegations of dissipation may also include gambling debts.
Understanding Dissipation of Marital Assets
Excessive expenditure of marital assets by one spouse will decrease the value of the marital estate. The financially dependent spouse will receive a smaller share in such a situation. Identifying and establishing the point at which an extravagant spouse’s spending becomes dissipation is crucial.
Dissipation is best defined in Kothari v. Kothari, 255 N.J. Super. 500 (1992) as one spouse using the marital property without regard to the marriage for their particular interests or advantage while the union is in “serious jeopardy.” An analysis of several factors is necessary to determine whether one spouse’s spending is dissipation. Nevertheless, gambling debts are typically considered dissipation but proving when and how these debts transpired may not always be straightforward.
Contact an Experienced Lawyer to Discuss Divorce Involving Gambling Issues in NJ
Sometimes, spouses and families are subjected to a chaotic rollercoaster of a gambler’s addiction against their will. Compulsive gamblers are addicted to chasing the thrill of winning. They will stop at nothing to achieve their next high, even putting significant assets on the line (mortgages, family heirlooms, jewelry, car titles, and more). Gaming addiction brings many extremes, risks, and dangers to all parties involved; however, individuals with these issues will go to extensive lengths trying to repress their troubles and erase their pasts, especially if they fear divorce. Gamblers can be reckless with their finances and lives because of a desire to win and the stress of gambling debts. A divorce of this nature calls for immediate consultation with a New Jersey divorce attorney.
Trust the sound legal guidance of our experienced divorce lawyers at Montanari Law Group when you need to recover lost assets, find hidden ones, and call upon financial experts and forensic accountants to uncover what truly happened and what you can do now to set things right. Our highly respected firm assists clients with financially complicated divorce proceedings, including those involving gambling issues in Wyckoff, Montclair, Fort Lee, Caldwell, Verona, Woodland Park, and throughout Passaic County and Northern New Jersey. Contact us at (973) 233-4396 for answers to your specific questions and a free consultation.