Tag Archives: divorce court

Divorce Court vs. Criminal Court

Sometimes divorcing parties act like criminals, but Divorce Court is NOT Criminal Court (typically).

Divorce court, a.k.a. Chancery Court, is a civil court. The Court’s function is to legally divorce parties that are entitled to be divorced and divide property. The Court has the authority to deal with and punish conduct that is violative of its Orders or disruptive conduct that occurs directly in its presence. Other than those instances it is not a punitive Court. You typically are not punished for marital fault…

Criminal court, which can be Circuit, County, Municipal, or Justice, among others, can punish. These Courts have prosecutors whose job is to prove the accused committed a crime/violated a law. The Judge or a jury determines if the matter was proven and a punishment, including; incarceration, fines, and other remedies.

However, sometimes these can relate or overlap. Conduct that could serve as grounds for divorce, such as domestic violence, is also a crime. The Court’s are independent of one another and you can be punished in Criminal Court and divorced in Chancery Court over the same facts.

Interestingly, your right to plead the fifth, invoking the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution can be done in both Courts. While it cannot be used against you in Criminal Court, it can be used to make an adverse inference in Chancery Court. So, if you are accused of adultery/habitual fornication in Criminal Court, which IS a crime in Mississippi, you may invoke the fifth and the prosecutor must prove a violation of the law by beyond a reasonable doubt, however in Divorce Court, while you may invoke the fifth, the Court can treat that as an adverse inference/admission and could find such to be enough to rise to clear and convincing evidence of adultery. Confused yet?

Divorce Court and Criminal Court are different animals, with different standards and different outcomes. However, all are serious and your rights may be infringed if the Court determines they should be.

Matthew Thompson is a Divorce Court lawyer and encourages those charged with a crime to confer with an experienced Criminal Defense attorney.

Going to Court is HARD.

I have blogged recently about Why Settling Your Case is Best, avoiding Court, and Why Going to Court is “Best.”  The gist of the former being settlement is preferred for having a say in the final outcome and having predictability and the latter, going to Court is best when there is no room for compromise.

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Unfortunately, I have been involved in the latter, a case where there was no room for compromise.  From my perspective one party was primarily the aggressor and was encouraged by the attorney to take unreasonable positions and force the matter to Court.  Of course, they did not view their own positions as meritless.  Also, I’m sure they thought my client and I were wretches…

Regardless, hard feelings abounded.  This case had some history.  What should have been a run of the mill divorce and custody matter was extremely contentious and was litigated over an issue that was not an issue.  In Round One, after most of a day of trial, the Court stopped the matter and told the other side they were going to lose on their issue and the case did settle.

But, like the A-Team, they had a plan!  Just a few months after it was final they decided another bite at the apple was proper. Based primarily on speculation…which was eventually admitted at Court, the other side sought to change the deal they had agreed to just months prior.  Round Two in Court was based on rank speculation.  After hours of testimony, haughty lecturing, and what can only be described as highly stylized testimony by the aggressive party and deeply emotional testimony by the other, the Court dismissed the case.

So, what is the take away?  Sour grapes?  I don’t think so, at least not  on my part.  It made me realize, yet again, Court is HARD.  It is not fun.  It is emotional.  And, even when you win, nobody wins.  Here’s what else can be guaranteed, when you successfully defend against baseless claims from the other side who thinks they are completely in the right when they are not, you better get ready for posturing and Round 3!

Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney and knows that sometimes even when you win you don’t win.

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