Husband D. v. Wife D.
383 A.2d 302 (1977)

  • Mr. and Mrs. D were married for seven years. During this time, Mrs. D began to drink more and more. Eventually Mr. D got tired of it and filed for divorce.
    • Mr. D admitted that other than her habitually drunkenness, Mrs. D was a good wife and cleaned and cooked and did wifey stuff.
  • Mrs. D argued that Mr. D knew she was a drunk before he married her, and that in order to obtain a divorce, Mr. D would have to show that Mrs. D’s drinking made it “impossible to endure.”
    • Mrs. D also argued that Mr. D was also an alcoholic.
  • The Trial Court denied the divorce.
    • The Trial Court found that under Delaware law at the time, only an innocent party could ask for a fault divorce.
      • In this case, the Court found that Mr. D was also a drunk (albeit not as much as Mrs. D). Therefore he wasn’t completely innocent. While he wasn’t solely at fault for the marital break-up, his own drinking was a partial fault (aka recrimination).
      • Also, part of the reason Mrs. D. was a drunk was that Mr. D kept buying her liquor (aka convivance).
      • Btw, the Court didn’t mention it, but they probably could have also found that Mr. D. condoned Mrs. D.’s actions because he continued living with her after he learned she was a drunk (aka condonation), and since he had known about her drinking problem for seven years, he was also barred from bringing an action because of laches.
        • The four common-law defenses to fault are recrimination, convivance, condonation, and laches.
    • The Trial Court found that under Delaware law at the time, no-fault divorce could only be granted if one party commits acts so serious as to render further cohabitation by the injured and innocent party unreasonable.
      • In this case, Mrs. D continued to perform household duties, so even though they were somewhat incompatible, there should still be able to live with one another.
        • The drunkenness didn’t go to the “essence of the marriage.”
  • Basically, this case said that if you want a fault divorce, you have to be an injured and innocent party, there can be no contributory fault (aka recrimination). If you want a no-fault divorce, you have to establish that things have gotten so bad that it would be unreasonable to make you continue living there.