There has been much ado in the tabloids this week about the allegations of domestic violence by Paul McCartney against Heather Mills. So I wondered, what relevance would these allegations have if this case was being heard in New York?
In New York, because only the parties, their respective attorneys and the court have access to the papers filed in court, the press would not have access to court papers. So, unless one of the parties leaked court papers, there would be no trial in the press.
If there was domestic violence during the marriage, Ms. McCartney could have sought intervention of the courts during the marriage and requested an order of protection against her husband.
The fact of domestic violence would give Ms. McCartney grounds for a divorce. As I noted in previous postings, New York is not a “no-fault divorce” state. That means, a person seeking a divorce needs to allege and then prove one of the statutory grounds for divorce. The allegations of domestic violence, which if established at trial, could serve as the basis for a divorce upon the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment.
As I also, discussed in an earlier posting, generally marital fault will not be a factor in equitable distribution, the method of dividing assets in New York. Marital fault will only be taken in consideration where it is “so egregious or uncivilized as to bespeak of a blatant disregard of the marital relationship.”
A party’s acts of domestic violence would certainly be a relevant consideration in a contested custody case. In custody cases, the courts will be guided by what it perceives to be the best interests of the children. Certainly it would not be in a child’s best interest to be with a violent parent.
I do not have enough information as to form an opinion as the merits of the allegations. But, given the fortunes involved and the tabloids’ fascination with celebrity divorce, I am sure that, we will be hearing a lot more about this case in the near future.