No Fault Divorce When One Party is in the Wrong

Washington is a “no fault” divorce state. This means that the only ground that will be used to grant a divorce is a determination that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”  This does simplify divorce proceedings in that it is no longer necessary to produce proof that one of the spouses is responsible for the disintegration of the spouses’ relationship and marriage. To a wronged spouse, this may not always feel fair, as he or she will not have a reason to produce proof in court of the other spouse’s wrong-doing. However, there are times when one spouse’s bad acts may be relevant to other issues in the divorce.

If one spouse has squandered marital income or assets, this absolutely can contribute to the break-down of a marriage. Financial arguments are common in every marriage, even without divorce. The issue of wrong-doing when wasting marital assets can become relevant to the issue of property division. For example, if the wronged spouse can prove, that the wrong-doer used these assets on luxurious gifts or vacations for a new partner, the court may take this into account when making a division of marital debts or assets.

A court is unlikely to saddle an innocent spouse with debt that was incurred solely for the benefit of the other spouse’s new relationship. Similarly, although fault is not involved directly in a determination of spousal support, the way in which either spouse uses his or her resources can be relevant. For example, if one spouse denies the ability to pay spousal support, but spends money on dates or gifts for a new girlfriend or boyfriend, the court may take that into account.

Adultery could also play a role in child custody decisions. Courts will not reject a parent’s request for visitation or custody solely because he or she has a new boyfriend or girlfriend. However, if the new partner is completely unsuitable to be around children, this can become a factor in a court’s best interest determination. If the new partner is violent or a has a substance abuse problem, the court will take steps to make sure that the children are kept safe from the unsuitable individual. Sometimes this will take the form of a court-order keeping the parent from exposing the children to a particular individual, or it can be more severe, such as curtailing the parent’s access to the children.

If you are facing a divorce, call us today (253) 272-9459 for an appointment. We have extensive experience in divorce and how fault can impact divorce proceedings in our “no fault” state. Let us review your case and talk about your goals.