Many clients believe that since Missouri is a “no fault” state, conduct is not relevant in a divorce. “No fault” simply means that a person wanting to end a marriage does not need to accuse their spouse of fault to obtain a divorce. All that is required in Missouri is that a judge finds that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” As a practical matter, that means that if you want to get a divorce, you will get one.
Does misconduct ever come into play, and if so, what are the consequences of bad behavior? A judge can take conduct during the marriage into account in at least two areas: division of property and maintenance (alimony).
Property is divided based upon many factors, conduct being only one of them. What kinds of conduct do courts look at? Misconduct can take the form of physical or emotional abuse. Although it is easy to see black and blue marks, emotional abuse can be just as detrimental, sometimes more so. Calling a spouse offensive names , cursing, stalking, belittling, and monitoring phone calls can all be forms of abuse. Destroying property, throwing things, breaking things, preventing a spouse from leaving the house, and threats and intimidation are all abuse, even if no physical contact exists.
A court may also consider economic misconduct. Preventing access to bank accounts or other income, making a spouse bring receipts in order to obtain money, closing out all accounts, squandering money on girlfriends, gambling, and buying illegal drugs are some kinds of conduct the court will consider.
Lawyers cannot accurately predict how much impact conduct might play in the outcome of the case; some of that depends on the evidence you have to support your allegations and some may depend on your judge’s view of how detrimental that conduct was to the marriage. There are no simple formulas for determining the extent to which conduct will play a role in the resolution of a case but an experienced attorney can give you advice on your particular case.
The family law attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal can provide you advice and information about conduct based upon the particulars of your case.