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What is Recrimination?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 06 December 2016
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Recrimination is a defense used in some divorce cases. Its purpose is to prevent one person from being found at fault for destroying a marriage by showing that the other spouse also is at fault. When this happens the two individuals are not divorced. Some jurisdictions have stopped recognizing the use of recrimination. Even if it is still applicable, if the jurisdiction permits no-fault divorces, it can easily be avoided.

People may falsely assume that being found at-fault when divorcing makes no difference because the couple is breaking up anyway. Fault, however, makes a major difference because it often determines which assets a person will receive, who will be liable to pay spousal support, and who will receive custody of any mutual children. With so much at stake, if one spouse is accused, he may likewise wish to make an accusation in return.

Think of the process along the same lines as a counter-claim in other types of civil lawsuits. If Josh breaks Paul’s window, Paul can sue Josh for the damages. However, if Paul broke Josh’s door, Josh can countersue. If the damages are equal or close to it, there are chances that a judge could refuse to order action to be taken on either claim since one basically nullifies the other.

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When recrimination is used in divorce cases, instead of comparing financial value, the extent of each parties wrongdoing is assessed. One spouse, say Melissa, will allege that Shawn had an affair and she wants a divorce on the grounds of adultery. Shawn may argue that he had to have police remove Melissa from the home on several occasions because she became violent. Shawn may wish to allege that Melissa is at fault for being abusive. If it is found that both spouses are guilty, recrimination occurs.

This does not mean, however, that the marriage will be dissolved. It essentially means that the two individuals are both wrongdoers and deserve one another. Therefore, a divorce is not granted and they must remain married.

No-fault divorces are becoming increasingly popular, eliminating the need to argue about what any one person has done. In some jurisdictions, recrimination is no longer used. In jurisdictions where this defense is still applicable, if both spouses know that they have committed wrongs in the marriage, they can simply avoid all of the complication that recrimination would cause by filing for a no-fault divorce.

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Discuss this Article

cclinton
Post 3

@Celthyte, it looks like there are states that offer fault and no-fault divorces, to answer your question. Those are:

Alabama

Alaska

Connecticut

Delaware

Georgia

Idaho

Illinois

Maine

Massachusetts

Mississippi

New Hampshire

New Mexico

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

West Virginia

Greencovi
Post 2

New York became the last state to institute no-fault divorce laws in 2010, so now all 50 states offer that as an option. It raises some debate, however, about whether or not having no-fault divorces allows people an "easy out" out of marriage.

Celthyte
Post 1

I came across this post while studying for the GRE and trying to figure out how to use recrimination in a sentence. It's interesting, because no-fault divorces are so popular now, I wonder what states even look at recrimination anymore?

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