Family Law Keyed to Weisbergback
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.
Facts. Carolyn Parker, appellant, was married to James Parker, appellee. Appellant operated a beauty shop, and appellee operated a garage. Appellant brought suit for divorce based on habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. In support of this claim, she produced witness testimony stating that appellee committed various acts, including offering $100 to a friend’s wife in exchange for sexual favors, falsely accusing appellant of adultery, checking the mileage on her car to see if she had been gone, shoving her into a car, and firing a pistol outside her beauty shop. Some of appellant’s customers quit doing business with her because of her problems with appellee. Appellant’s physician testified that she required hospitalization for severe anxiety caused by family problems. Appellee raised the affirmative defense of recrimination in that appellant had committed adultery. The trial court found that appellant had committed adultery, and denied the divorce based on recrimination. Appel
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.