Fox Family Lawyers
Cynthia Moseley Fox
Attorney at Law
7751 Carondelet Avenue,
Suite 700
Clayton, Missouri 63105
(St. Louis)
314.727.4880

Must Man Pay Alimony If It’s Used To Fund His Own Murder?

I thought I’d heard every possible reason why someone should be excused from paying alimony until I read about a case recently heard by the Missouri Court of Appeals. In this case, a husband (let’s call him “Fred”) asked the court to terminate his monthly obligation to his ex-wife (let’s call her “Wilma”) because, as Fred alleged, Wilma is trying to have him killed.

 

According to the published records, when Fred and Wilma divorced, Fred agreed to pay Wilma $2425 each month until either he or Wilma died or Wilma remarried. According to the separation agreement, the amount could not be modified “regardless of the relative circumstances of parties”. (A restriction payers generally like  because it gives them certainty.)

 

Non-modifiable or not, Fred figured he shouldn’t have to pay moneys that he alleges were then going to be used to hire someone to assassinate him. So, in February 2005, Fred filed a motion with the Circuit Court, City of St. Louis, asking the court to end his alimony payments on the basis that Wilma…

a.)    Has tried to hire someone to burglarize his house

b.)    Has stated publicly on at least one occasion that she’d like to see him dead

c.)    Has attempted to hire someone to murder him

 

Fred provides no evidence to support his claim, but does write that the “facts supporting the allegations…have recently been discovered or brought to (Fred’s) attention”. Perhaps Fred was holding back until a hearing so he could use his “facts” for maximum effect. However, since there is no record of a hearing available, I suspect the Circuit Court judge made his ruling based just on the written motions.

 

Wilma responded by asking the Circuit Court to dismiss Fred’s motion. In so many words, she said that this was Fred’s latest stunt in a series of court actions to have his non-modifiable maintenance obligation overturned. According to Wilma, Fred “has filed six (6) different pleadings in three different courts” since July 1999. (They were divorced in December 1997.)

 

Interestingly, Wilma does not deny Fred’s allegations.  Given his litigious nature, who could blame Wilma if the thought of Fred’s demise had crossed her mind or lips at one time or another? Wilma’s only response was to say that his assertions should be aired out in a criminal court and that to the best of her knowledge, there is neither an on-going investigation nor pending proceeding related to Fred’s charges.

 

The crux of Fred’s argument, and the one focused on by both the Circuit Court and the Court of Appeals, is that “murder or attempting to acquire a murder” violates the public policy of Missouri. The Circuit Court, the Honorable Judge Thomas Frawley presiding, read this argument and told Fred to take a hike, dismissing his motion. Wryly noting that Fred was still very much alive, Judge Frawley wrote that even if he assumed that Fred’s allegations were true, Fred had “failed to state a claim” that would allow him to relieve Fred of his non-changeable payment.

 

The Court of Appeals disagreed saying that the public policy issue is an adequate basis for Fred’s pleading and that he is entitled to a hearing. The appellant court then served notice that, if after hearing the evidence, the trial court concludes that the charges were bogus, Fred could be assessed all of Wilma’s various costs in defending herself.

 

It looks like Fred may finally get another day in court and it will be interesting to see if he actually has something to back up what he has charged. If not, Wilma’s attorney’s fees may be cheap compared to cost of the civil suit she is likely to file.