If you want to divorce your spouse, you are probably wondering if it is good for you that the court should decide which spouse was at fault for the break-up of the family. On the one hand, everyone would like to go through the divorce as quickly and as painlessly as possible. On the other hand, however, you know that fault affects alimony.
What exactly is at stake with this guilt and maintenance.
I will start with fault.
- The fault of decomposition of life
The rule is that the court decides whether and which spouse is at fault for the distribution of life.
Such a divorce judgment may therefore look like this:
- The Regional Court in Szczecin dissolves the marriage of plaintiff Jan Kowalski and respondent Halina Kowalska through divorce - through the fault of plaintiff Jan Kowalski.
- The Regional Court in Szczecin dissolves the marriage of plaintiff Jan Kowalski and respondent Halina Kowalska through divorce - through the fault of respondent Halina Kowalska.
- The Regional Court in Szczecin dissolves the marriage of the plaintiff Jan Kowalski and the defendant Halina Kowalska through divorce due to the fault of both spouses.
In order to determine the fault, the Court conducts an evidentiary procedure, the task of which is to determine the reasons for which the marriage has been dissolved. The fault may consist, for example, in betraying the spouse, abuse of alcohol, gambling, violence against the spouse.
However, the court does not always rule on fault. At the unanimous request of the spouses, the court will refrain from declaring fault.
Such a divorce judgment will look like this:
The Regional Court in Szczecin dissolves the marriage of plaintiff Jan Kowalski and respondent Halina Kowalska by no-fault divorce
I will now turn to the issue of maintenance
- Influence of the wine decision on alimony
It happens that even after a divorce, a former spouse has to pay maintenance on the other spouse. In such situations, it is essential to determine whether any of the spouses has been found guilty of the dissolution of the marriage.
Only the guilty spouse cannot claim maintenance, even if he or she is in privation. On the other hand, only the guilty spouse can be claimed maintenance, even if we are not in need, but our standard of living has fallen due to a divorce.
Below I will describe in detail the issue of the influence of fault on the possibility of investigation or the necessity to pay maintenance.
Two situations should be distinguished here.
- When a former spouse was in need.
- When a divorce caused a significant deterioration in the financial situation of one of the spouses.
Insufficiency of the spouse
A former spouse is in need when:
- does not have its own financial resources (income or savings) at an appropriate level,
- it is not possible to satisfy his or her legitimate life needs.
According to the law, a divorced spouse who has not been found guilty of mere breakdown of life and who is in need may require the other divorced spouse to provide means of subsistence to an extent compatible with the legitimate needs of the beneficiary and the economic and financial capacity of the obliged spouse.
Thus, the issue of fault has an impact on maintenance. Only if the spouse has been found guilty of mere breakdown of life does he not have the right to maintenance in a situation of privation from the former spouse.
In other cases, i.e. when:
- the other spouse was found guilty of mere distribution of life,
- both parties were at fault,
- The court pronounced a divorce without apportionment of fault.
the former spouse may claim maintenance when he or she is in need.
So when you think you are in need and wonder if your former spouse has a duty to pay you, check your divorce sentence to see if you are not found guilty of only the breakdown of your life. If not, you can apply for maintenance.
If you have been solely at fault, the court will not adjudicate your maintenance.
The same if your former spouse "threatens you" with maintenance. Check if he or she has not been found guilty of decay only. If so, there is nothing to worry about.
To sum up, a spouse who is solely guilty of breakdown of life will never have the right to maintenance. If you want to make sure that your spouse will never claim maintenance from you after a divorce, you must therefore make sure that the divorce is pronounced through his or her sole fault. Of course, if he was at fault for the break-up of the family.
Significant worsening of the financial situation after the divorce
The second situation in which maintenance can be claimed from a former spouse is the significant deterioration of the financial situation after the divorce.
According to the law, if one of the spouses has been found guilty of only a breakdown of life and the divorce entails a significant deterioration of the financial situation of the innocent spouse, the court, at the request of the innocent spouse, may decide that the spouse is obliged only to contribute to an appropriate extent to meeting the justified needs of the innocent spouse, even if the innocent spouse is not present in need.
Thus, an innocent spouse whose standard of living has fallen as a result of divorce may demand maintenance from the spouse only from the one at fault, even if he is not in need.
As I wrote above, maintenance cannot be demanded because of the decline in the standard of living associated with divorce, when the spouse was not solely at fault, and thus:
- there was no verdict of guilt,
- You have been found guilty,
- the divorce was due to the fault of both parties.
Therefore, if you care about maintenance because your standard of living has fallen after a divorce, you have to make sure that you have at-fault divorce.
- Termination of the maintenance obligation
The maintenance obligation towards a former spouse may be limited in time.
- Conclusion of a new marriage by a former spouse entitled to maintenance
The obligation to provide means of subsistence for the divorced spouse shall cease if the spouse enters into a new marriage.
Thus, the celebration of a new marriage removes the possibility of seeking maintenance from the former spouse. However, if you pay maintenance and you became aware of the conclusion of a new marriage by a former spouse to whom you pay maintenance, you can file a lawsuit with the Court to establish that the maintenance obligation expires on the date on which the former spouse enters into a new marriage.
- End of the five-year period
Where the debtor is a divorced spouse who has not been found guilty of the dissolution of life, this obligation shall also expire five years after the divorce decision, unless, due to exceptional circumstances, the court, at the request of the entitled person, extends the said period of five years.
The five-year period will therefore not apply and the obligation to pay will not be limited in time when:
- a divorce has been pronounced through your sole fault,
- a divorce was pronounced through the fault of both parties (as in the judgment of the Polish Court of Appeals in Katowice of 21 November 2013, III AUa 470/13).
The five-year period will apply when:
- the guilt was not found guilty.
When a divorce has been pronounced through the exclusive fault of the other spouse, you will never have to pay maintenance, as I have already indicated above.
Demanding the other spouse's fault and a lack of willingness to agree may lead to a situation where the Court will rule on both parties' fault and then you will not be able to feel safe even after five years. So sometimes, when we know that our behavior was also wrong, it is worth making a concession and not escalate the conflict. Then we will also save time and nerves related to the evidentiary proceedings related to the need to establish fault.
Therefore, each situation requires individual consideration as to whether in given circumstances it is worth getting to an agreement, or whether it is better to have an exclusive fault of the other party.
Attorney-at-law/ Restructuring adviser