Divorce Newsletters

Annulment and the “Relation Back” Doctrine

By its legal definition, the “relation back doctrine” enables a plaintiff to correct a pleading error, by adding either a new claim or a new party, after the expiration of the statutory limitation period. In some cases, spouses who are parties to subsequent marriages have attempted to assert the “relation back” doctrine to persuade courts to reinstate/reinforce alimony or maintenance payments from their previous marriage(s).

Defenses in Fault-based Divorce: Condonation and Reconciliation

States traditionally have considered condonation and reconciliation to be common law affirmative defenses to fault-based divorce actions. Under that scenario, the defendant was required to plead and prove the defense. In states that allow fault-based divorce and that have comprehensive divorce statutes, the general movement has been to limit or eliminate common law divorce defenses such as condonation and reconciliation.

Fault-based Divorce: Cruelty

There are two basic approaches to divorce: fault-based divorce and “no fault” divorce. Most states permit a “no fault” divorce on the grounds that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Some states still require a fault-based divorce, some allow no-fault divorces, and a few states permit both. The fault grounds or reasons for divorce vary from state to state. Cruelty is a specific fault ground for divorce in most of the states that allow fault based divorces. Prior to the introduction of no-fault divorce grounds, cruelty was the most frequently used reason in seeking a divorce.

Imprisonment as Grounds for Annulment of Marriage

Annulment is very different from divorce, even though some grounds for annulment are similar to divorce. Some grounds available in divorce are not available in annulment. In most states, if a spouse is convicted for a serious crime and imprisoned consecutively for three years, imprisonment can be a ground for a divorce. While imprisonment is generally not a ground for annulment of marriage, in some states, if the defendant conceals his or her criminal record such as conviction and imprisonment from another spouse, this is considered fraud and can be grounds for annulment. Further, in some states, inmates imprisoned for life may not marry.

Spouses as Witnesses in Divorce Proceedings

In general, either spouse can testify in a ”no fault” divorce proceeding, in a fault-based divorce proceeding, in a property settlement hearing, or in proceedings relating to custody determinations. While such testimony can be highly relevant in a divorce proceeding, there are some rules (including the marital communications and anti-marital facts privileges) that come into play when considering the admissibility of such testimony.