Divorce and crime are in the news after the estranged wife of former San Diego congressman, Duncan Hunter, filed for divorce after more than a year of separation amid a corruption prosecution that netted them both felony convictions.
Trouble in America’s Finest City
Margaret Hunter is seeking a divorce because of “irreconcilable differences,” and requests joint legal custody of their two daughters according to court records filed in San Diego Superior Court. She seeks physical custody of their daughters and reasonable visitation with their father. She also asked the court to award her spousal support and attorney’s fees and costs.
The divorce filings do not include any details about the “irreconcilable differences” that ended the marriage. An attorney for Margaret said she had no comment. A spokesman for Duncan did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Duncan Hunter has been living with his mother and father, Former Rep. Duncan Lee Hunter. The divorce records say Margaret and their daughters have lived in La Mesa since the couple separated in August 2019.
Duncan Hunter served as a U.S. Representative from 2013 to 2020 and succeeded his father, Republican Duncan Lee Hunter, a member of Congress from 1981 to 2009.
In 2017, the Department of Justice began a criminal investigation into Hunter and his campaign manager and wife Margaret Jankowski, for alleged campaign finance violations. The couple was indicted in federal court in August 2018 for allegedly using more than $250,000 in his campaign funds for personal purposes.
Margaret had been Duncan’s campaign manager. Both initially pleaded not guilty then separately changed their pleas last year, with each admitting to one felony count of conspiring to illegally convert campaign money to personal use.
Florida Property Division and Dissipation
I have written about equitable distribution in Florida before. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.
When distributing the marital assets between spouses, a family court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.
One of the factors to consider is the “intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.
As a general rule, when misconduct during the divorce results in the dissipation of a marital asset, the misconduct may serve as a basis for assigning dissipated assets to the spending spouse when calculating equitable distribution.
The question is whether a spouse used marital funds for his or her own benefit and for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.
Thrown Under the Bus
In a Fox News interview, the congressman firmly put the blame for his campaign shenanigans where it belongs . . . on his wife:
“I’m saying when I went to Iraq in 2003 the first time, I gave her power of attorney and she handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when I got to Congress since I’m gone five days and home for two. She was also the campaign manager. So, whatever she did, that will be looked at, too, I’m sure. But I didn’t do it.”
Duncan told a Fox News reporter shortly after the indictment that he had given his wife power of attorney when he was deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps in 2003, and she handled his finances after that.
The indictment and other court records prosecutors filed in Duncan Hunter’s case before he pleaded guilty last year suggested Duncan carried on extramarital affairs with at least five women — three lobbyists, a staff member and a congressional aid — and used his campaign money to pay for weekend getaways and other outings with them, starting in 2009.
Margaret cooperated with prosecutors during their investigation, and they agreed to seek a lighter sentence. She was sentenced in August to three years of probation and eight months of house arrest, which she began serving immediately.
Duncan was sentenced in March to 11 months in prison, which he is scheduled to begin serving Jan. 4. His lawyer said he will do his time at the Federal Correctional Institute La Tuna in Anthony, Texas. Duncan resigned from his seat representing the 50th District in Congress in January.
The San Diego Tribune article is here.