Handling your own divorce case is like flying to Albuquerque on a banana. It just makes no sense. Here, Burt Likko describes an exchange in a family court:
Judge: Petitioner, is your marriage completely and intolerably broken down?
Petitioner: Yes it is, Your Honor.
Judge: Respondent, do you agree with that?
Respondent: I don’t understand, Judge.
Judge: The correct form of address is ‘Your Honor.’
Respondent: Oh. Sorry, Your Honor. Yes, I agree that our marriage is completely broken.
Judge: Petitioner, will counseling or intervention help you reconcile or reconstruct your marriage?
Petitioner: Well, Your Honor, he never really gave it a try.
Judge: Petitioner. Will, or will not, counseling or intervention help you and the respondent reconcile or reconstruct your marriage? [Arches eyebrows.]
Respondent: No, it won’t, Your Honor.
Judge: Thank you, Mr. Respondent, but I need to hear from her.
Petitioner: No, Your Honor, nothing will make us reconcile.
Judge: Very well. The petition for dissolution of marriage is granted. Are there any personal possessions left to divide?
Petitioner: Yes, Your Honor, he still has some of my sheet music.
Judge: Is this sheet music particularly valuable?
Petitioner: It is to me, Your Honor, it was from my mother’s estate.
Respondent: Your Honor, she took everything but my clothing. She’s welcome to come back to the house and take whatever else she wants.
Judge: Do you dispute that the sheet music belongs to her?
Respondent: I don’t care. She can have it if she wants it.
Petitioner: Why wasn’t it there when I came by the house before?
Respondent: You didn’t ask for it so I didn’t know to get it for you.
Judge: All parties will please address the court and not each other. Respondent will find and deliver the sheet music. Anything else?
Petitioner: I would like to address the issue of alimony, Your Honor. If you look at the tax returns, you’ll see that he can make good money when he chooses to work. It’s very suspicious that he decided to retire a few weeks after I filed for divorce, and he claims to have no money and he’s going to get married again in just a few weeks. He can make money if he wants to.
Judge: Well, I can’t make him want to work, and I can’t order him to go to work. How old are you, sir?
Judge: There you go.
Respondent: I’ve looked everywhere for that sheet music, Your Honor, and I can’t find it.
Judge: Once again, sir, I am ordering you to find and deliver the sheet music. Go home and look, hard.
Petitioner: I would like you to be aware of what’s in this sexually explicit e-mail he sent me. It was just awful, awful. I haven’t had a decent night of sleep since I received it.
Respondent: Your Honor, I would like to be heard about this allegedly explicit e-mail, she’s taking out of context, and–
Judge: You know what? I don’t care about the e-mail. I’m here to divide up your property and that’s it. Your sex lives are not my concern. [Departs the courtroom.]
Petitioner: [Sotto voce, to Respondent] This isn’t over, you bastard.
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