Illegal conduct, like bribing the judge in your divorce case, may be considered as a factor in awarding equitable distribution. Domestic Relations Law §236(B)(5)(d) provides a laundry list of factors to be considered by a court in distributing marital property. The thirteenth factor is the catch-all “any other factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.”
The New York Legal Update provides the background of the case of Levi v. Levi in which a husband’s attempt to bribe the matrimonial judge constituted egregious marital fault and was to be factored into the equitable distribution award.
The divorce action originally appeared before a certain Justice of the Supreme Court, Kings County. The action terminated abruptly after it was learned that the plaintiff-husband attempted to bribe the judge with a $10,000 payment for a favorable outcome.
When the divorce action appeared before a new judge, the new judge equitably distributed the marital residence entirely to the defendant-wife because the plaintiff-husband had attempted to bribe the judge. The Second Department affirmed the distribution finding that the new judge properly exercised its discretion in finding that the plaintiff’s attempt to bribe the former judge constituted egregious marital fault to be factored into the equitable distribution award. The Second Department also rejected a claim by the plaintiff-husband that his conduct was not egregious because he was suffering from a mental disease or defect at the time he made the bribe.