When we talk about marital misconduct in a divorce, we are referring to mistreatment of one spouse by the other throughout a marriage. These are actions that undermine or erode the marital relationship. In some cases, adultery is grounds for divorce in a fault-based situation and can be a determining factor in property distribution during divorce proceedings. Some examples of marital misconduct are cheating, domestic violence, alcohol or drug abuse, wasting marital assets, hiding marital assets, and gambling. If one of the spouses has committed marital misconduct, they will likely be at a disadvantage in divorce proceedings.
The discussions of marital misconduct often come into play when the divorcing couple is determining the details of post-separation support and alimony. It often becomes an important part of determining alimony, which is the financial support that is provided to a spouse after divorce. Because discussions surrounding marital misconduct and alimony often go hand-in-hand, the outcome of these actions will depend on which spouse is supporting which spouse. If there is evidence that the dependent spouse committed misconduct throughout the marriage, for example, there is a strong chance they will be denied alimony.
Judges will give the greatest consideration to the most harmful instances of marital misconduct when determining how it will affect alimony. In particular, economic fault, such as dissipation of assets, adultery or an addiction, can directly affect the marital estate. Therefore, it would affect the economic determinations in the divorce. In addition to alimony, marital misconduct can affect the division of property, the award of spousal support, and even the award of attorney’s fees to the victim-spouse.
Other Factors a Court Considers When Dividing a Marital Estate
In addition to marital misconduct, there are many factors that the court will consider when determining property division during a divorce. Many community property states do not allow permanent or temporary alimony. California is one of the nine community property states in the country, along with Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In a community property state, marital assets are jointly owned, which means they must be jointly split in the case of a divorce. These marital assets can include real estate, personal property, savings, retirement accounts, and debts acquired during the marriage.
This is the result of the Uniform Marital Property Act of 1983. This defined the ownership of property by married individuals and the means to divide the property in the event of divorce. The purpose of this Act was to create a class of property that belonged to the marriage rather than to a particular individual. This created the effect that any uncertainty regarding the owner of an asset would be considered marital property. There are still instances when property is considered individual property, which means that it was acquired before the marriage or inherited by one spouse before or during the marriage.
In a community property state like California, the courts assume that both parties have equal rights to all wages, properties, assets, and financial obligations acquired during the marriage. In the case of a divorce, the courts determine that both parties should split assets and debts down the middle. There can be ways to navigate around the property division laws by classifying some community property as separate property.
To learn more about marital misconduct and other factors that affect division of assets, call Palmer Rodak & Associates at (760) 573-2223 or contact us online.