The Pettiness of Divorce

It is amazing how long former spouses can hold a grudge and exhibit pettiness, particularly when one spouse is obliged by court order to make spousal support payments to the other. The resentment that builds up when one spouse believes the other does not deserve to be supported can lead to piddly antics, such as the behaviour exhibited by New Jersey divorcee Diane Wagner, age 57.

Ms. Wagner claimed that she did not have sufficient funds to contest her husband’s claim for spousal support so she consented to pay him $744 a month for six years. However, it was apparent that her payments were made begrudgingly as evidenced by the notations she wrote on the cheques, such as “bum”,  “loser”, “adult child support” and she even used the acronym “FOAD”. (If you don’t know what that means better ask one of your teenagers).

Her ex-husband’s lawyers found it amusing enough to post a comment and a copy of one cheque on Facebook, whiting out her last name and street address. Several months later Ms. Wagner received a letter from her husband’s lawyers advising  that their client, Francis Wagner Jr., age 61,  had suffered “sustained heart attacks in recent weeks” due to the emotionally disturbing comments on her alimony cheques and that if she continued they would file a lawsuit against her for “intentionally inflicting emotional distress”.

Ms. Wagner gave a media interview suggesting she could write anything she liked on the cheque saying “I was the victim in that marriage. What more blood does he want from me? I pay him religiously”. She also claimed that when she discovered the Facebook posting, she too suffered emotional distress.

Yeah, I know all of this is hard to believe coming from mature adults. Nonetheless, last week Mr. Wagner’s lawyers filed the lawsuit they  had threatened.

I can’t figure out why a self-respecting lawyer would agree to file such a stupid lawsuit. The Wagners both need to be told to “grow up and get a life!”

 

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

 

Upset With Judge, Litigant Sends Threatening Email

It’s not unusual to see divorce litigants upset with the family justice system. Whether it’s unhappiness with the court’s decision or frustration over the delay and expense of family law proceedings, the courtroom is typically not a happy place to be.

A divorce litigant in Connecticut was particularly incensed with the way his contentious divorce matter unfolded and in a moment of anger sent an email to a number of friends that targeted the judge in his divorce proceedings. The email said that he knew where  Hartford Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Bozzuto lived with her boys and nanny and that there is “245 yards between her master bedroom and a cemetery that provides cover and concealment…they can steal my kids from my cold dead bleeding cordite filled fists….as my 60 round mag falls to the floor and I’m dying as I change out to the next 30 rd.”

While Judge Bozzuto was not a recipient of the email, one person who received a copy sent it to his lawyer who contacted the courthouse and advised them of its content. Edward (Ted) Taupier, age 50, described as a hard-working, loving father and a committed community volunteer was charged with first-degree threatening, disorderly conduct and breach of the peace.

Mr. Taupier’s lawyer argued that his client’s missive was protected free speech. Criminal court Judge David P. Gold did not agree, saying that threats of violence are “punishable” speech not protected by the First Amendment. She also suggested that the prosecution had not proven that Mr. Taupier was the author of the email.  That too was rejected and Mr. Taupier was sentenced to prison for five years, with all but 18 months suspended. The Court also made a finding that Mr. Taupier had four guns that were capable of a long-distance shot.

Judge Bozzuto spoke briefly at Mr. Taupier’s criminal trial expressing her dismay and telling the judge that Mr. Taupier also referred in his email to court officials as “evil, self-appointed devils” who will only want to change the system once they “figure out they are not protected from bad things, when their families are taken from them.”

It is beyond sad that Mr. Taupier’s pent-up rage over the perceived mistreatment from the family courts has ruined his life and along with it, his children’s well-being. Eighteen months is a long time to think about one’s missteps.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

 

 

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Super Bowl Ad Features Dads and Daughters

BarristerWho could have imagined that an ivory tower academic scholar could influence a major corporation to produce a television ad that relied on her research about the relationship between dads and daughters? That’s what hair product company Pantene has done as they debut their Super Bowl ads this weekend, giving due credit to Dr. Linda Nielsen, a leader and expert in parenting issues. Their tag line? “Girls who spend quality time with their fathers grow up to be stronger women”.

The “Strong is Beautiful” campaign is a fusion of pop culture and cutting edge research that shows that fathers can do anything moms can do and their influence is pivotal to the successful development of their daughters. The ads feature Dallas Cowboy’s Jason Witten, Pittsburgh Steeler’s DeAngelo Williams, and Benjamin Watson of the New Orleans Saints, each of them creating hairstyles for their cute-as-a-button offspring. The dichotomy of these big guys gently braiding, combing, and pony tailing their youngsters with the help of Pantene products, is charmingly heart-warming.

The clear message is that men who care about their kids are both strong and sexy…it’s a marketer’s dream…. combining cute kids with virile football players, all that’s missing is a cocker spaniel!

As for Dr. Nielsen, her work has gone viral and her voice is respected worldwide. In a recent interview she said:

“ Are you worried about teenage pregnancy? Are you worried about whether your daughter will get a good job someday and be able to support herself? Are you worried about your daughter picking boyfriends and husbands who are going to be emotionally and physically abusive to her? Are you worried about boys taking sexual advantage of her? All of these things, research shows, are connected more strongly to her relationship with her father than to her relationship to her mother.”

Kudos to Pantene… now if our family court judges could embrace the reality that children need two parents if they are to be successful adults.

Pantene ad:     http://www.refinery29.com/2016/02/102454/pantene-super-bowl-commercial-2016

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Pooches Need Protection in Divorce Too

 

phoenixThe State of Alaska is joining several other States in introducing new legislation to protect dogs that are caught in the midst of their owners’ divorce or domestic violence incidents.

Family law lawyer and Democratic House Representative Max Gruenberg sponsored the bill with unanimous support from both sides of the aisle. Its provisions include expanding the definition of “essential personal items” to include pets and permit victims of domestic violence to retrieve their pets as they would any other personal items.

It would also require owners to pay for the cost of animals seized in cases of neglect; allow courts to include pets in domestic violence protection orders; and provide authority for custody arrangement for pets during divorce cases.

In 2007 California and Illinois passed laws to protect pets after concluding that spouses and partners in abusive situations were often reluctant to leave their abuser, fearing their pet would become their abuser’s next victim in retaliation for their departure. When victims of abuse leave their abusive situation and go to safe houses they are rarely able to take their pets with them. Thus, this law authorizes animal shelters to care for these pets during this time.

In California, even before the law was passed, courts were permitting applicants for domestic restraining orders to include family members in the order, which included pets. I have not seen such terms in protection orders in British Columbia, but I am aware of orders awarding the care of a pet to one of the parties pending a final decision in a divorce case.

As a pooch owner, I understand why separating couples fight as hard over their pets as they do the financial aspects of a case. Our pets are beloved family members and as any dog-owner will attest: our pets know when there is trouble in the home.GAL & PAL #2jpgGAL & PAL #2jpg

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Murder, Mayhem, and Matrimony

GeorgiaLeeLang009Yesterday I finished reading an intriguing true crime book called “Guilt by Matrimony” A Memoir of Love, Madness, and the Murder of Nancy Pfister”. The story involved the 2014 murder of wealthy, Aspen Colorado socialite Nancy Pfister, age 57, and was written by Nancy Styler. Both Nancy Styler and her husband Dr. William Styler were arrested for the capital murder of Ms. Pfister. Colorado is a death penalty state.

Nancy Styler was a prominent scientist and her husband a highly esteemed anesthesiologist in Denver, before bad luck reversed their fortunes. Dr. Styler was diagnosed with a degenerative illness and could no longer practice medicine. His lawsuit against the hospital that fired him came to an unsuccessful end after they exhausted their last savings on legal fees. They sold their opulent Denver home for far less than they expected, and were looking to start over, now in their early 60’s.

They ended up in Aspen hoping to open a spa, and met Ms. Pfister, an eccentric member of the “lucky sperm” club, who was looking for a tenant for her home while she was away on an extended vacation in Australia. She seemed like a fun-loving, sophisticated woman, and she said she was interested in investing in their new spa.  The Stylers didn’t hesitate to rent the home.

They moved in immediately, sharing the home with Ms. Pfister until she was ready to leave. They quickly became disillusioned with their landlady who was not what they thought. She was manipulative, mercurial, and had a penchant for pink champagne, in vast quantities. The Stylers met Ms. Pfister’s close friend, Kathy, a bank teller, who did her bidding without question. Sharing Ms. Pfister’s limelight appeared to be sufficient compensation for Kathy.

All was well, until the Styler’s received a brusque message from Ms. Pfister who was returning to Aspen earlier than expected. She rudely told them to get out and accused them of failing to pay the rent. They scrambled to move their furnishings and vacate the home, moving into a local motel.

During the move-out they were grateful their landlady was not home, but became alarmed when they saw her dog was alone in the home and had made a mess all over the house. They called Kathy, who fetched the dog.

Early the next morning, the police barged into the Styler’s motel room, ordered them to strip, took photos, and handcuffed them. They had no idea what was going on as they were driven to the local lockup. After hours of questioning without a lawyer present, Nancy Styler and Dr. Styler were charged with capital murder. Both denied any knowledge of Nancy Pfister’s death. Ms. Styler suspected she had overdosed on pills and alcohol. She later was told that Ms. Pfister received hammer blows to her head and was stuffed in her bedroom closet.  Ms. Styler was gobsmacked, without bail, and with no funds to retain a lawyer a public defender was appointed to represent her. Her husband had separate counsel.

She languished in jail for three months while her lawyers investigated the state’s case and concluded they had insufficient evidence to hold Nancy. But Nancy’s release only came when her husband made a startling admission. He said he had gone to the Pfister home early one morning to discuss Nancy Pfister’s allegations, which had enraged him, lost control of himself, and killed her. Nancy Styler didn’t believe him, thinking he was taking the blame in order that she be freed and exonerated. But she was wrong. He had done it. His illness had also affected his mind and the anger and resentment he had carried since losing his medical position exploded that morning. She immediately filed for divorce.

Dr. Styler was convicted of second degree murder, later committing  suicide in his prison cell. He had a one million dollar life insurance policy that was paid to his wife.

Yesterday the Aspen Daily News reported that Nancy Pfister’s daughter, Juliana Pfister, has brought a wrongful death suit against Nancy Styler alleging she assisted her husband in her mother’s murder, suggesting that Dr. Styler did not have the physical capacity to hide the body, as he did. Ms. Pfister is seeking financial compensation from the life insurance funds and the profits of Ms. Styler’s intriguing book.

This story is an enlightening example of how life can change so quickly, from the upper echelons of Denver society to a jail cell in Aspen…

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Take Your Pick: 19 Dogs or Your Kids?

GeorgiaLeeLang059A couple in England lost custody of their two children, ages 7 and 2, when authorities discovered 19 dogs in their house, a home described by officials as “incredibly filthy and utterly squalid”. The children were placed into foster care.

At the time of the seizure of the children, their mother had been prosecuted by the SPCA and banned from owning any dogs for a period of 4 years.

After three years of foster care, the children’s parents, both in their fifties, brought an application to the court to have their children returned to them. Mother advised the court that once the ban expired she planned to have only 1 or 2 dogs.

Judge Peter Nathan denied their application despite evidence that the home was now neat, clean, and nicely decorated. He believed the improved conditions would gradually deteriorate, and he did not accept that the home would only house 1 or 2 dogs.

Other factors that caused Judge Nathan to refuse to return the children included:

  1. He found that the children’s mother resented the intrusion of social services, police and other persons in authority;
  2. He found that the mother’s expressed desire to involve the media, write a book, and participate in a film about the case was not in the children’s best interests;
  3. He found that the children’s father was paranoid and had complained about social workers, the SPCA, the police, and the children’s teachers, and believed these authority figures were envious of his lifestyle.

An odd conclusion to an interesting case…the judge specifically found that the children’s parents loved the children and had changed the conditions in the home. If these parents were unfit, the court needed to say so. There must be lots of parents who disdain state intervention in their home life. While I understand the initial removal, I can’t understand why there was no “second chance”. Surely these parents or other family members would be preferable to state foster care. There must be something more to this case and if I find out, I will update this story.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

The Lighter Side of Divorce

GeorgiaLeeLang032We all need a few laughs once in while, so today’s post is intended to focus on the lighter side of divorce, which, believe me, does not exist when you are in the middle of it. It is always amusing to see what Hollywood has to say about the subject, given their residents are abundant among the divorce statistics.

For those who have survived divorce and those who watch from a distance (and are grateful for that), consider the following sound bites and barbs.

1. “Ah yes divorce, the Latin word meaning to rip out a man’s genitals through his wallet.”
ROBIN WILLIAMS, divorced twice

2. “I’m an excellent housekeeper. Every time I divorce, I keep the house.”
ZSA ZSA GABOR, divorced seven times, one anulment

3. “The difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that a legal separation gives the husband a chance to hide his money.” JOHNNY CARSON, divorced three times

4. “Today Pamela and Tommy Lee announced they are getting back together. You know what that means? There’s still hope for Ike and Tina Turner.”JAY LENO, married for 30 years

5. “I’ve given my memoirs more thought than my marriages. You can’t divorce a book.”
GLORIA SWANSON, divorced four times

6. “The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret.”
HENNY YOUNGMAN, married for 60 years

The literary world also has something to say on the topic of divorce:

6. “A divorce is like an amputation, you survive it, but there’s less of you.”
MARGARET ATWOOD, divorced once

7. “The worst reconciliation is better than the best divorce.”
MIGUEL DE CERVANTES, married for 32 years

8. “When two people get a divorce, it isn’t a sign that they “don’t understand” one another,
but a sign that they have at last, begun to.”
HELEN ROWLAND, marital status unknown

As Billy Joel once said “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang, happily married for 27 years!