Does a Spouse Stealing Money Qualify for a Divorce?
By Heather Frances J.D.
Updated March 19, 2020
It may be time for a divorce if you catch your spouse stealing money, but a court cannot grant your divorce unless you meet specific legal requirements. These requirements vary by state. Generally, you can divorce your spouse if you simply do not get along anymore, even if the reason is based on his theft.
Each state's laws describe a set of grounds, or reasons, for divorce in that state. Therefore, your reasons for divorce must match at least one of your state's grounds before you can get a divorce. Typically, stealing is not grounds for divorce, meaning your divorce court will not give you a divorce simply because your spouse was caught stealing from you or someone else. But that does not mean you will not be able to get a divorce. If your situation fits another of your state's grounds, you generally can still get a divorce.
Spouses who do not get along can generally file for divorce on no-fault grounds and neither spouse has to prove any wrongdoing. Often, no-fault divorces are based on the idea of irreconcilable differences between the spouses or an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, meaning the spouses literally cannot get along anymore or resolve their differences. For example, New Jersey law allows spouses to divorce if their irreconcilable differences caused the breakdown of their marriage for at least six months and there's no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Generally, the only proof required for this type of divorce is one spouse's testimony in court to confirm the couple has such differences.
In addition to no-fault grounds, states have a list of fault-based grounds which vary by state. These grounds may include adultery, desertion, cruelty or abuse, addiction, impotence, imprisonment or mental illness. Theft or a criminal history generally does not qualify for a fault-based divorce, though you may be able to use imprisonment grounds if your spouse was thrown in jail for theft. If you choose to file on fault grounds, you must prove facts that support your accusations.
Consideration of Fault
Your divorce court may be able to consider your spouse's misconduct whether or not you file for divorce based on that misconduct. However, the court's ability to consider misconduct varies by state. For example, Texas courts can consider fault when making property and alimony decisions -- even when the divorce is based on no-fault grounds. If your spouse stole money from you to support a girlfriend or an addiction, your divorce court may award you a greater share of marital property to replace the stolen and wasted money.
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.