CAN ONE SPOUSE USE A DEFENSE AGAINST INCOMPATIBILITY IN A DIVORCE PROCEEDING THAT WAS STARTED BASED ON THE GROUNDS OF INCOMPATIBILITY?
Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
LaRue v. LaRue, 531 P.2d 84 (Kan. 1975).
This case answers the following question:
Can one spouse use a defense against incompatibility in a divorce proceeding that was started based on the grounds of incompatibility?
The issue in this case is whether there is a defense to incompatibility when one spouse files a petition for divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. It is inconceivable that Spouse A’s temperament can be compatible with Spouse B’s, if Spouse B’s temperament is incompatible with Spouse A’s.
In this case, the Nina and John were married in 1945. The couple lived together until John became very ill on May 15, 2973. After recovering and being released from the hospital, Nina did not permit John to return to their marital home. On July 6, 1973, Nina sued for a divorce alleging irreconcilable incompatibility. John initially answered the divorce petition with a denial, then filed a cross-petition also alleging irreconcilable incompatibility, eventually abandoning his cross-petition at the trial. At trial, Nina testified about the marital relationship stating that she was “so sick and tired of looking at [John] that [she] hated him.” Throughout her testimony, she continuously referred to John as “that thing over there” and described him as “dumb” and “lazy.” Nina also complained about John’s work ethic, alleging that he did not help her with any of the farm work because he was “too damn lazy.” According to Nina, John also tried to get money from her, including taking money directly from her pocketbook. The trial court found that the parties were incompatible. John appealed the trial court’s decision alleging that the trial court’s decision was unsupported by the evidence.
It is inconceivable that Spouse A’s temperament can be compatible with Spouse B’s, if Spouse B’s temperament is incompatible with Spouse A’s. Incompatibility may be broadly defined as such a deep and irreconcilable conflict in personalities or temperaments of the parties as makes it impossible for them to continue a normal marital relationship. The court found that throughout Nina’s testimony, her hostility and resentment towards John were evident. The court was not compelled by John’s argument that Nina’s testimony alone was not enough to establish incompatibility, and her testimony need be corroborated. However, in Kansas, a party may obtain a divorce upon the uncorroborated testimony of either or both of the parties. The trial court found that Nina was not compatible with John given her attitude towards him. Therefore, the court held it was not possible that John could be compatible with Nina since Nina was so incompatible with John.
The Supreme Court of Kansas affirmed the decision of the lower court, finding that there was sufficient evidence to establish the parties’ incompatibility. The mere fact that Nina claimed the parties were incompatible and John denied that fact showed the parties were incompatible. The Supreme Court of Kansas was also persuaded by the finding of the trial court that Nina harbored nothing but hostility and resentment towards John, establishing that she was not compatible with him – therefore, John could not possibly be compatible with Nina.