In a very revealing article from Huffington Post, a woman described how her marriage came to a sudden end and how she mostly dealt with the emotional aftermath. We want to address how Missouri courts would address the legal aftermath.
The author had an idyllic life for nearly twenty years – married to a wealthy executive, three lovely children, two homes. But what she did not know is that her husband not only had been losing interest in her but taking steps to find interest elsewhere. In fact, one day, he simply told her he was leaving and filing for divorce.
Left to figure out how to pay bills and handle family finances, she needed to access bank and credit card accounts. She asked the husband for the password and he obliged. What she discovered makes one wonder why he gave up the password. She found a charge for a website that is one of the largest “sugar daddy” sites in the country.
These sites match older, often married, wealthy men with women in or right out of college looking for an exchange – pay off their college debts and give them a great lifestyle in exchange for companionship and/or sex. She reviewed their credit and bank statements and found thousands of dollars of suspicious charges she realized were for his sugar baby. It had a bit of an “ick” factor in that one of his sugar babies was in college and he was paying for her college tuition at the same time his own daughter was in college. She found notes attached to a PayPal account where he gave thousands of dollars in one transaction and a tag of “enjoy the shopping spree” or something to that effect. She made copies of everything and gave it to her attorneys (excellent move). She also confronted her husband, who shockingly to her seemed not to care and told her he liked that these women appreciated him in ways she did not.
What would a Missouri court do with this information in a divorce?
Missouri handles marital misconduct in three ways. First, if a spouse behaves badly, particularly if it involved secret squandering of marital assets, the court can make an unequal distribution of property. Second, the court can award the victimized spouse maintenance. And finally, the court can require the misbehaving spouse pay some or all of the legal fees for the divorce.
In this particular case, because the husband engaged in affairs with much younger women and spent thousands of dollars on them – money that is marital property – and did so in a way that would cause real harm to not just the wife but the children, the court would be open to using all three forms of “punishment” for the misconduct. At a minimum, the husband would have to compensate wife for all of the secretly depleted funds. Given the length of the marriage and that wife had not been in the job market, maintenance would be expected. And husband caused the divorce and filed for it – so having him pay the legal fees would also seem likely.
While this woman’s story is heartbreaking and disturbing in many ways, it is not uncommon. What she did upon discovery – making copies of all records and turning them over to her lawyer – is what everyone in this situation should do, because it provides concrete evidence of the money trail of bad behavior and the emails that can be the subject of discovery. Even though she had to be emotionally distraught, she had the wherewithal to make sure she made copies and preserved everything.
If you have questions about marital misconduct and divorce, contact us – we can help.