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.
Military divorce involves a member of the uniformed services and his or her spouse, who may or may not be in the services. Even though military divorce may be similar to a usual divorce, there are a few differences, such as legal protections, jurisdiction of court, residency requirements for filing for divorce, division of military retirement benefits or pension, and provision for child support. A service member facing a divorce should be aware of the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act of 2003 and the Uniform Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA).
The terms “commingling” and “tracing” are related concepts in the identification and division of property in divorce proceedings. Commingling occurs when a spouse or both spouses treat separate property in such a way that it loses its separate property character. Common ways for that to happen is for a spouse to use his or her separate property to pay marital debts, purchase marital property, collateralize a marital debt, or allow the other spouse to use the property as if it is marital property.
In divorce, a critical issue impacting the treatment of insurance policies is whether the policy benefits are separate property or marital property. State divorce courts have reached varied answers on the question of whether a life insurance policy is separate or marital property. In some states, “whole life” insurance contracts have been held to be marital property and generally have been valued at their cash surrender value. “Term life” policies, on the other hand, which lack a surrender value, have not been considered divisible property. In states in which inheritances or gifts are classified as separate property, insurance proceeds usually are not treated as marital property for purposes of property distribution in divorce. Other courts have ruled that the proceeds of a life insurance policy purchased with community property should be treated as community property in a divorce.
In a divorce, temporary orders for property protection are designed to prevent irreparable losses from dissipation, concealment, or conveyance to third parties. Such orders include orders directing one spouse not to dispose of marital property, encumber marital property, or interfere with property in the other spouse’s possession. Courts also may issue temporary orders to prevent third parties from degrading or dissipating marital property that is in the third parties’ possession or control. The orders also may take an affirmative tone by ordering a spouse to maintain insurance and utility service and continue other routine property-preserving activities. Temporary property protection orders often are necessary whenever invaluable assets are involved. It is common for temporary orders to grant one spouse the right to use an item, and to provide compensating support to the other spouse until the assets are divided and distributed.