Brief Fact Summary. Appellant requested a divorce based on habitual cruel and inhuman treatment and produced testimony attesting to such treatment. The court denied appellant’s divorce based on recrimination due to appellant’s adultery.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under the doctrine of recrimination equal guilt of a complainant bars his/her right to divorce, with the principle consideration being that complainant must come into the court with clean hands.
Issue. Did the trial court err in denying appellant’s divorce based on cruel and inhuman treatment due to recrimination?
Held. The trial court erred in refusing to grant appellant’s divorce due to recrimination.
The evidence fully supported a divorce for appellant based on habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. Also, the evidence suggested that appellant engaged in adultery after the couple separated.
The doctrine of recrimination bars a complainant’s right to divorce if the complainant is equally guilty. Four policy-oriented justifications for the doctrine are: 1) promoting marital stability by rendering divorces more difficult to procure; 2) deterring immorality; 3) protecting a wife’s economic status; 4) preventing persons who are poor marriage risks from being freed to contract another marriage.
These reasons are impractical and fail with the mores of present times, particularly in this case. There is no marital stability in the present case. The economic status of the wife ha been destroyed due to appellee’s impact on appellant’s business. The immoral adultery committed in this case occurred only after separation. Finally, while the State has a recognizable interest in preventing bad marriages, denial of the divorce in this case would only perpetuate an already-existing bad marriage.
Discussion. The doctrine of recrimination is based on the theory that a complaintant must come into court with clean hands.