Does a Criminal Conviction Affect Divorce?
The end of a marriage can occur for a wide variety of reasons – from the somewhat innocuous and slow-developing issue of growing apart to extreme acts of betrayal and violence. Most couples are somewhere in the middle, but a legitimate question may arise when one spouse is convicted of a crime, and the other spouse must choose whether to continue the marriage or use this event to justify divorce. Depending upon the circumstances of the criminal conviction, the repercussions on the integrity of the marriage can be significant, and spouses may wonder what impact the conviction will have on the outcome of divorce.
Unless a person comes into a relationship with a criminal history, spouses typically do not anticipate this possibility nor necessarily know how to respond if it does happen. A recent example of this conundrum involves the marriage of a man accused of kidnapping and killing an international student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His wife filed for divorce recently, citing irreconcilable differences and no possibility of reconciliation in her petition.
When couples divorce, it is common and understandable that each side wants to offer his or her perception of why the marriage did not last, but understanding what factors matter and why they will help to produce a more favorable outcome is crucial.
Does the Reason for Divorce Ever Matter?
Illinois is a pure no-fault divorce state, meaning irreconcilable differences is the only grounds for the dissolution of marriage recognized by the state’s courts. Citing irreconcilable differences and showing a separation period of six months is enough to obtain a divorce. Consequently, issues such as physical abuse, mental cruelty, drug abuse and infidelity cannot serve as the grounds for divorce, but they may still have a discernible impact on the final settlement.
For example, property division is based upon the notion of equity or fairness, and any issue that blocked a spouse from working, resulted in a depletion of marital funds, or created an imbalanced financial situation can convince a court to award a higher percentage of the marital assets to one spouse. In addition, the issue of child custody can be substantially affected by the types of issues described above, as any of them could reflect on a parent’s ability to safely and appropriately care for the child.
Criminal Convictions and Divorce
Turning to criminal convictions, the relevance this information will have on the results of a divorce case will largely hinge on the severity and type of crime at issue. Felony convictions will almost certainly impact child custody issues, and certain crimes, such as sexual abuse, murder, and kidnapping may result in the termination of parental rights, as well as limitations imposed on the convicted spouse’s parenting time if contact with the child is permitted.
The best interests of the child will determine how significant a criminal conviction will be in the allocation of parental responsibilities, but courts will be looking closely at the nature of the felony, the sentence imposed, additional criminal activity, and potentially mitigating factors, such as completion of an anger-management program or the fact that the conviction was not recent. For both sides, criminal convictions bring a new and potentially explosive element into the divorce, and an experienced divorce attorney should be consulted on the best way to introduce or respond to this information.
Speak with a Palatine Family Law Attorney
Many factors go into divorce, but knowing when and how they matter to the outcome of the case is an issue best left for an experienced attorney. Dedicated Arlington Heights divorce attorney Nicholas W. Richardson understands the nuances and issues that can heavily influence divorce, and he will work to obtain a fair outcome in your case. Contact our office at 847.873.6741 to schedule your free initial consultation.