I always have thought it amazing that both parties in a divorce usually feel they have been wronged—no matter who left whom. Like many injustices we experience, we want the world to know the divorce wasn’t our fault. Unfortunately, there is no way to place legal blame in California and many other states.
I remember how mad I was when I started filling out the paperwork to file for divorce. I kept looking for the box that said “cheater” or “adulterer,” but the only choices were “Irreconcilable Differences” or “Annulment.” I wanted to blame him, and there were no categories for that. I felt gypped.
At least in car accidents, you have the choice: no-fault, or you can cast 100 percent of the blame on the poor fool that rear-ended you. Not so in divorce, even though I sure felt like I had been rear-ended. It’s a little ironic. A total stranger can rear-end you by accident, and you can sue him for damages. Depending on the circumstances, you can put him in the poor house, take his license away and ruin his driving record if he is found at fault.
But your own spouse can ruin you financially, devastate you emotionally and turn your world upside down, and you can’t even legally have the satisfaction of blaming him for causing you so much pain and anguish. You don’t get to legally say it was his or her fault.
Instead you have to check the box that says “Irreconcilable Differences” (code words for our fault)!
I hated this description because it made me feel like I was somehow responsible for the divorce, when he was the one who left. I was mad about that at first. Why should I be blamed for something I didn’t do?
I hadn’t learned yet how I had contributed to the divorce.
In the end, you find out it doesn’t help to try to blame the other party. You both suffer—financially, emotionally, and in many other ways—no matter who or what caused the divorce.
What is needed is no-fault divorce insurance: something to protect you against the ensuing damages. But I’m here to tell you, you are your own best insurance plan.
Tomi Tuel will teach a course called “Five Things You’ll Need to Know After Your Divorce” on Saturday, December 2. Contact the Sacramento Healthy Marriage Project to register, 918 J Street, (916) 483-7254.