Adultery Still Affects Alimony
In one of its first published opinions of the year, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that an extramarital affair can affect an alimony award in divorce proceedings that go to trial. Adultery is one factor the family court judges can and should consider in resolving spousal support.
The case, Cassidy v Cassidy, comes out of the Genesee County Family Court. Judge Kay Behm, a judge’s judge if there ever was one, issued a well-reasoned opinion that was challenged and affirmed on appeal. Husband had a two-year affair prior to Wife filing for divorce, and he spent, paid or “loaned” over a half million dollars to his mistress.
Leaving no stone unturned, Wife named the other woman as a third-party defendant. After 15-days of trial, mostly devoted to resolving the issue of whether Husband and his mistress intended to defraud Wife, the court issued a judgment of divorce that is very favorable to Wife. Judge Behm also imposed liability on the mistress, who joined in the appeal.
Wife put in 30-years at General Motors, helped raise Husband’s daughter, and remained faithful during the marriage. Husband had periods of unemployment where Wife served the family as the sole bread winner. Husband incurred tax liability due to under-reported income.
With these proofs going in, it did not take Judge Behm long to construct an equitable judgment of divorce. Husband was ordered to pay $1000 per month in spousal support; he was held solely liable for any tax debts; and was ordered to pay Wife’s attorney fees. The mistress was ordered to pay back a portion of what came to be characterized as a loan from Husband to Mistress.
All of Judge Behm’s decisions in this sordid yet complicated case were affirmed on appeal, including her ruling on a dispositive motion form the Mistress. On appeal, the mistress’ claim was rejected that she, as a third party, was entitled to a jury.
Now that’s a trial we would have paid to see. A fire sale on the Hummer and the husband’s [latest] business, alcohol, gambling and, of course, sex. “Enough blame to go around”, Husband’s lawyer was quoted as saying.
For us practitioners over here at Clarkston Legal, this soon-to-be-published decision of the Court of Appeals -affirming Judge Behm- signals that judges can and should take a spouse’s bad conduct into account; that there are consequences for morally bad behavior.