If you click through a celebrity news website, few behaviors are in evidence that do not fit the commonly understood definition of misconduct. Everywhere you look, you find false rumors, infidelity, harassment, poor impulse control, and unbridled greed. Marital misconduct has a much narrower definition in divorce law, however. In most states, it is possible to get a divorce simply because you no longer want to be married to your spouse; you do not have to prove that your spouse is at fault for ruining the marriage. Family law judges do not care who cheated on whom or which spouse’s parents were judgmental and meddlesome. In the 41 states that follow the equitable distribution scheme of dividing marital property, they also do not care which spouse earned how much money and how much each spouse spent beyond the couple’s means.
Marital misconduct refers specifically to hiding money from your spouse or intentionally wasting or alienating marital assets so that they do not count as part of the marital estate for a judge to divide in a divorce. The following actions are just some of the behaviors that a court can count as marital misconduct:
- Selling marital assets at a loss
- Keeping bank accounts that the other spouse does not know about and that it would be difficult for him or her to find out about
- Titling assets in the name of a business or a family member so that they do not technically belong to you
- Spending money on an extramarital affair
Note that the extramarital affair itself does not count as marital misconduct, only spending marital assets (which includes almost everything you own, unless you have a prenup).
Sylvester Stallone and Jennifer Flavin
Sylvester Stallone and Jennifer Flavin married in 1997 after several years of dating, and they have three daughters together, all of whom are adults. In August 2022, Flavin, 54, filed for divorce from Stallone, 76, in Palm Beach County, Florida. Much of the tabloid speculation about the breakdown of their marriage relates to certain four-legged friends who hold a special place in Stallone’s heart. One website speculated that the final straw was when Stallone adopted a Rottweiler puppy named Dwight against Flavin’s wishes. Rumors also began to fly when Stallone covered a tattoo of Flavin’s portrait with a picture of Butkus, his canine co-star in the Rocky movies.
The truth is probably something more mundane. In his divorce petition, Flavin alleged that Stallone has been dissipating the couple’s assets. For example, he recently sold a Beverly Hills mansion that the couple owned. At Flavin’s request, the court has ordered Stallone not to sell any marital assets until the divorce is finalized. Flavin has also requested that the court grant her exclusive possession of the couple’s Palm Beach mansion while the divorce is in progress. News reports have not indicated which requests she has made regarding the division of marital property or whether she has requested spousal support.