How to Prove Negligence in a Divorce

The contract of marriage carries with it certain obligations to which each spouse is expected to comply. If these obligations are not met, there may be grounds for divorce based on negligence. Negligence is any neglect of marital duties as to be obvious from common understanding or, in simpler terms, any conduct that falls below an accepted standard of behavior. Of course, the ability to prove negligence in divorce is another matter, and can be a factor in fathers custody issues, as well as visitation by fathers and other matters of divorce.

Established marital duties are not normally spelled out by any written law, rather they often involve assumed or implied responsibilities based largely on the norms of society and on what a “reasonably prudent” person would have done in similar circumstances. Some commonly accepted marital duties include (but are not limited to):

  1. A financial obligation to support one’s spouse and/or children, when able.
  2. A duty to provide emotional support and companionship to one’s spouse.
  3. A duty of fidelity.

A breach of any of these responsibilities, among others, may be a valid reason to obtain a dissolution of marriage. To prove that negligence has occurred and is basis for divorce, one must first understand all of the elements involved.

To be considered negligent, four things must have occurred:

  • There must have been a DUTY present, a standard of care owed by one person to the other. An example of this would be the normal expectation that a husband (or wife, as the case may be) has the inherent responsibility of providing financially for his wife. It is widely accepted that each spouse should contribute to the financial security of the other when reasonably possible.
  • There must have been a BREACH of that duty. Using the example above, If a spouse is working and does not contribute financially to the marriage, he or she may be considered negligent in their marital duties.
  • Causation must be present. Causation is some connection between the actions of one person and the consequences of another. Did the husband’s refusal to support the wife financially cause her harm in some way? Did his actions/inactions cause her difficulties?
  • There must be DAMAGES as a result of the breach of duty. Damages do not necessarily have to be monetary; they may be emotional or physical as well. Again staying with the aforementioned example, a wife may suffer undue emotional distress or physical complications if she or her children do not have enough to eat because her husband has not contributed to their financial well-being. Likewise, she may also suffer monetary repercussions because of medical bills, or credit issues related to unpaid debts.

A spouse can suffer marital negligence in many different ways, and each state carries its own laws for applying negligence in the context of divorce. Proving negligence in divorce is not a simple process but can be done if these four requirements are met and with the right attorney.