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 – 216 Kan. 242
This case addresses the following issue:
What evidence is sufficient to establish incompatibility?
This case examined what evidence is necessary to establish a claim of incompatibility in a divorce action. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Kansas concluded that incompatibility is broadly defined and testimony that one party harbors resentment for the other may be enough to establish incompatibility.
The defendant (John Larue) and plaintiff (Nina Larue) were married and lived on a 210-acre farm owned by Nina. Nina inherited the property from her previous husband who had since passed away. One day, John went to the hospital to undergo surgery for an illness he suffered from. Upon his release from the hospital, Nina did not allow John back in the house. Nina eventually filed for divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. Nina stated that the reason she filed for divorce was because John “hadn’t done anything for so long and I got so tired of keeping him and cooking for him…I hated him”. Nina also referred to John as “dumb and lazy” on multiple occasions. The trial court concluded that there was enough evidence of incapability and dissolved the marriage. John appealed ruling.
John argued that there was not enough evidence to support Nina’s claim of incompatibility and that the trial court erred in the ruling. John believed that the trial court did not corroborate Nina’s testimony and abused its discretion when it granted the divorce based on the grounds of incompatibility.
John also argued that the trial court erred in dividing the spouses’ property. The trail court awarded Nina with the 210-acre farm, and awarded John one half of the personal property assets, which turned out to be $10,000. John argued that he contributed to the construction of the farm and barn with a $7,269.46 investment. John argued that the trial court abused its discretion when dividing only the personal property between him and Nina. However, the trial court is granted wide discretion when adjusting financial obligations. Part of John’s argument was that the division of the property was not just and reasonable, but the court said that it is not a requirement for the division to be equal for it to be just and reasonable.
Regarding John’s argument pertaining to incompatibility, this court reasoned that incompatibility as a ground for divorce is intended to broaden the scope of a divorce action. The court explained that the trial judge had the discretion as long as it was exercised in good faith. Either spouse may obtain a divorce upon the uncorroborated account of either spouse. If Nina’s temperament was not compatible with John’s temperament, then it was impossible for John’s temperament to be compatible with Nina’s. Nina was upset with John’s contribution financially and the court concluded that her disputes were deep-rooted and long-standing.
In sum, uncorroborated testimony that speaks to the incompatibility may be enough to establish this ground. In fact, arguing against it proves that there is a presence of incompatibility. Also, division of property does not have to be equal for it to be considered just and reasonable. The trial court is given a lot of discretion.