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How Sexually Transmitted Diseases Affect Divorces in Texas

By now we are sure everyone has heard the headlines about Charlie Sheen having HIV after he announced it on the Today show last week. Being a divorce attorney, the first thought that came into my head was how mortified his ex-wives Brooke Mueller and Denise Richards must have been after his revelation. In his interview on the Today show, Sheen mentioned that people had been blackmailing him for years threatening to leak the information. Since he couldn’t afford to keep his disease a lie anymore, he disclosed it on live T.V. so the threats would stop.

Now the new threats have arrived- his ex-girlfriends (some who happen to be prostitutes) are claiming they want to see criminal charges brought against him for failing to disclose that he was HIV positive prior to having intercourse with them. Sheen claims he was diagnosed four years ago, but his former girlfriends claim he had symptoms of HIV prior to that time and therefore must have known. According to certain ex-girlfriends, he only used lambskin condoms which only prevent against pregnancy and not STDs. Since these women were not married to Sheen, their relief will come in criminal or civil suits, but what if you’re married and living in Texas and your husband/wife gives you a sexually transmitted disease? Is it grounds for divorce?

Texas is a no-fault state- you can get divorced for insupportability, but you can also claim fault and get divorced for other reasons such as adultery, cruelty, felony conviction, and abandonment (Texas Family Code Section 6.001-6.007). If your spouse has knowingly transmitted a sexual disease to you, and you would like to file for divorce based on that fact, you may file for divorce on the grounds of cruelty and adultery. Cruelty is when one spouse acts in a way that causes physical or mental damage to the other spouse. Having sexual intercourse with your spouse during marriage without telling them you have an STD may be considered cruelty in Texas.

In addition to having grounds for filing for divorce in Texas, the Court may look at the knowing transmittal of an STD as a tort and may consider it in granting the injured spouse a disproportionate share of the community estate based on the wrongdoing spouse’s behavior. The claim is based on traditional negligence principles. This means that you have to prove that your spouse indeed has or had an STD, knew about it, and gave it to you without any warning prior to having intercourse. If you can prove this, the Court can award you a larger portion of your total marital estate to compensate you for your physical and/or emotional anguish.

For more questions on filing for divorce in Texas on fault grounds, schedule a consult by calling 214-692-8200.