My husband recently inherited a big sum of money when his father passed away. His father left 75% of his estate to my husband, which is worth around $3 million. My husband has been having an affair for some time now and I will confront him about it soon and, after that, I intend to divorce him.
What rights do I have to his inheritance? We have five children together and I went through a lot with him for many years and I want to punish him for going behind my back and having an affair. I know I’m a bitter and scorned wife, but what are my rights with his inheritance?
Lucy in Delaware
Ten U.S. states have community property laws where assets acquired during a marriage are divided 50/50. Delaware, however, is not one of them. It’s an “equitable distribution” state, meaning you both get what a judge deems fair and appropriate. In Delaware, a divorce court would likely divide the assets based on what is fair and equitable. However, your husband would likely keep his inheritance if the money is not co-mingled as inheritance is not typically considered marital property. Given that you have borne him five children and, from what I can glean from your letter, have endured some bad behavior, you still have a good case for at least 50/50 of what remains.
Tell your husband that it’s time to be honest with each other now and, despite what has happened during your marriage, say you owe it to yourselves to show respect to the people you were when you first met.
That said, Delaware also takes anticipated inheritances into account when dividing assets — so even if your husband has not received his money and he keeps all $3 million inheritance — it could still be a factor deciding how much you both walk away with in the event of a divorce. (If I were advising your husband, I’d say keep the paperwork.) In Delaware, you could receive more of the marital property if you can prove that your husband was cruel or unfaithful, and whether there is a big gap in your wealth and earnings after you divorce. Your age differences and health may also play a part. (Other states like California are what’s known as “no fault” divorce states, meaning bad behavior does not necessarily result in larger payouts.)
Talk to a lawyer. Then talk to your husband. Ask him, “Are you having an affair?” If he says no, present him with your evidence. Tell him that you raised five children together and you both did the best you could for many of those years and that it’s time to be honest with each other now and, despite what has happened during your marriage, say you owe it to yourselves to show respect to the people you were when you first met. Bring him back to the moment he proposed and tell him that you want to end this marriage with the same dignity and respect that you brought into it. It’s not good to remain in a marriage where you are resentful and unhappy.
Take heart: You’re not the only person who has written about marital infidelity. This unfaithful and soon-to-be-divorced partner lamented the financial consequences of his decision. There will always be a reason to wait. Don’t be like this acrimonious couple. Start the process today, if you are sure you want to divorce him. The rest of your life awaits.
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