Four years after my first divorce, in a courtroom on the other side of the state, the parties were gathering to complete their divorce case. Apparently, things were going really bad for the husband. He knew he was going to lose it all, so it lost it all in a different way.
There was limited security in the courthouse. No metal detectors. The court relied mainly on its bailiffs to keep order.
The husband, seemingly an ordinary guy of even temperament, an aerospace technician, had stashed two pistols in his briefcase. It wasn’t long before the gunfire began.
He shot and killed his wife. Shot both his attorney and her attorney. Shot a bailiff and a sheriff’s deputy. Shot at, but missed the judge. All before the police responded and took him down.
He sustained nine gunshot wounds – two to his head.
Before the paramedics arrived, and while he was still conscious, the story is that he exclaimed:
“Did I kill the bitch?!! Did I kill the bitch?!!!”
Now that is some powerful hatred. From a man who presumably, at least at one time, loved the woman he just killed.
His wife was the only one who died. He was declared incompetent to stand trial for murder because of the aftermath of his head injuries. Years would pass, and eventually he would be declared competent, tried, convicted and sentenced to death, only to die in prison of natural causes while awaiting execution.
Needless to say, divorce cases can be very emotional. This is why I never wanted to practice family law.
I hope none of you ever find yourselves in a situation where you need to literally dodge bullets, but there are legal-game bullets you may need to dodge if you’re involved with getting a divorce. And the attorneys’ revolvers are fully loaded.
I’ve already mentioned a couple in my prior posts. One in particular to be on guard for is the “hide the ball” game, where language is incorporated in a divorce settlement that seems inconsequential but has the effect of unraveling the legal and physical custody arrangements in favor of one party.
Another is failing to outline absolutely every aspect of custody and visitation. You must nail down every date and every detail.
In my first divorce, those two bullets hit their mark. Me.
Another thing to remember is that attorneys like money. They are running a business and they need billable hours. There’s an incentive, although it’s unethical, to keep the case generating those hours even if the parties are ready to settle and move on with their lives.
And one way to drag the case out is to intentionally keep the parties fighting to interfere with, or delay, any possible settlement. The goal may even be to force the parties into the courtroom. That’s where the big bucks are made.
I can’t say for sure, but a couple of very questionable things happened during my second divorce. Actions instigated by my ex’s attorney, which my ex claimed she had not given authorization for. Without giving specifics, her attorney’s actions caused myself and my attorney to have to respond with other actions. We both would have to pay our attorneys for the time spent getting things back on track.
I finally sidestepped the attorneys, called my soon-to-be ex and proposed the final language for our settlement agreement that brought this whole distasteful affair to an end.
Wounded by one bullet; dodged a couple more.
Another bullet I failed to dodge before our settlement was reached was the suggestion that I utilize an independent service that examines the parties’ finances and tries to mediate a reasonable property division. This service cost me some $1500+ dollars that my wife would not contribute to.
The economist wizards produced some erroneous numbers for their analysis because they weren’t paying attention to the information I gave them about my pension. Once I pointed out their errors, they immediately, while panicking, told me to accept a deal giving up more of my marital assets than I should have had to.
If you do utilize such a service, be careful of what company you choose and be sure to go through all of your assets in complete detail regardless of what they ask so that nothing is missed. Otherwise, it will bite you in the ass later. It bit me in the ass to the tune of an additional ten percent loss. Plus, I had to pay them for their grand work.
That bullet got me; chest wound.
Listen to your attorney about your local judges, or check them out for yourself. Go sit in their courtroom and watch how they handle cases, maintain order, and especially how they rule.
In my community, I was wisely cautioned not to go before any of the judges sitting on the bench as they were all biased in favor of women and liked to award high maintenance payments. I was also told that the judge who conducts the mandatory mediation session prior to trial was horrible because he got the law wrong sixty percent of the time. That judge would recommend accepting ridiculous settlements and make ridiculous predictions about how things would turn out in court if you proceeded with a trial. All to scare you.
I dodged both of these bullets.
Let’s see, that’s eight bullets in two divorces, and I was hit by four. Not bad I suppose. Still lethal.
Before I end this series (by now the readers may have had enough) I’d like to have a laugh over a couple of ironies between my two divorces.
If you remember from my first divorce (that marriage lasted five years), the property I walked away with included: the older of two cars; one book case that I had built; one dresser scrounged from the dump; one aquarium and the fish; and a futon to sleep on.
And the first thing I bought once I was free was a guitar. Taking lessons would help me get through those bad times, but I never was very talented. The guitar ended up in the case most of the time.
After a twenty-six year relationship with my second wife, I would walk away with: the older of two cars; my one book case had grown to four bookcases; a desk and two file cabinets; no dresser – I suppose I could use the file cabinets for my clothes; one aquarium and the fish; and that very same futon.
Dam near the identical property.
But I also still had that guitar, and I took lessons again to help me through the first couple of years. And I still have no talent for it. It now collects dust in my living room. 😊
This is what I had (plus one dish, one cup, and one set of utensils to eat with) after twenty-six years with this woman, and after accumulating a considerable amount of total assets – enough to retire on comfortably for thirty years easily. All gone. All twenty-six years of labor and the material slate was wiped clean.
Oh, I did take custody of Taz, my Labrador. She complained and wanted visitation rights. I did take him over for one ten-day visit and when I picked him up I discovered that he had spent those ten days laying by the front door whimpering. Waiting for me to come get him. She didn’t ask for any further visits.
A few months after my second divorce got underway, my first ex’s new spouse would file for divorce against her. And a couple of months after that, my daughter would file for divorce.
At one point in time, the three of us had simultaneous divorces pending. I think we deserve some kind of prize for that. 😊
* All disclaimers from my prior posts to this series apply. I’ll add that it is difficult to cover every detail in such a complex situations, so if you have a question, feel free to ask away.
** Prior posts include:
Photo: No need for much of an explanation here. Some 9mm rounds. I’m using them symbolically or as an analogy in my story though. No real bullets to dodge, but the figurative ones can produce lasting injuries.
I had used this pic for a prior post. A humorous one about buying ammunition. I have since taken that one down, along with way over a hundred more. I might have to recirculate a few of those comical ones to balance out this serious post. 🙂