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Sanctions for adultery pleading

When it comes to pleading adultery, a lawyer can’t use a claim of smoke to ferret out a fire.

In a Keeler v. Keeler, a new divorce case from Fairfax, the wife suspected adultery. In her divorce complaint, her lawyer cited the husband’s alleged use of Craigslist to solicit sexual partners and a computer forensic report that indicated the husband had e-mailed nude photos of himself to someone.

Borrowing language from an 1895 Virginia Supreme Court case, the wife’s lawyer said “particular information” would be “more fully developed through the conduction of discovery.”

When Fairfax Circuit Judge Jonathan Thacher called the lawyer on the lack of detail, he said he had omitted necessary facts to avoid embarrassment to either side.

Thacher was not impressed by these delicate sensibilities. Citing Ford Motor Co. v. Benitez, a sanctions case that originated in Thacher’s own courtroom, he sanctioned the wife’s lawyer under Va. Code § 8.01-271.1, ordering him to pay $2,638 of the husband’s requested $5,355 in lawyer fees.
By Deborah Elkins

One comment

  1. The case law is pretty clear about what you need for adultery. However, the sanctions were a bit too heavy handed.

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