The reason I’m sitting here in Fort Lauderdale writing this is because I’m scheduled to testify at a friend’s divorce hearing this coming Thursday. It keeps being delayed. Sometimes for valid reasons; the courthouse is old and water pipes keep bursting closing the whole place. That’s happened twice. It happened again last Friday but apparently didn’t stop operations though the newspaper reported that lots of civil and family court documents were damaged. Other delays have simply been mysteries.
Like the majority of divorces this one is acrimonious. The wife believes the husband has money and she wants it. She doesn’t work and once told me, “I’m not going to get a job. I’m going to make him support my ass.” That’s a direct quote. Despite the fact that she and her lawyer subpoened thousands of pages of bank records that clearly show that his construction company is in the dumper because of the current economic conditions she insists that he makes over $250,000.00 a year and she wants half. It doesn’t matter one bit that during their $22 year marriage he never came close to making that much.
I’m testifying because I served as my friend’s office manager from the day he started the company and as signatory to all the company’s bank accounts I’m the only one who can corroborate the absolute fact that not only is the company in trouble but my friend is broke. So broke, in fact, that he doesn’t have the money to hire a lawyer himself.
My own divorce, way back in 1972 was completely different than almost any other I’ve ever heard of.
My ex wife and I met in college and the primary reason we got married wasn’t so much that we were the “love of our life” for each other as it was that we simply wanted to live together. Had we done that both of families would have disowned us.
After six years we decided to call it quits. We were moving in different directions with our lives and just wanted to go our separate ways. We had no children and no property. Division went sort of like this: You take that dresser, I’ll take this one. You can have the T.V. I want the stereo. Since your parents financed the car it’s yours…
We had been partners in several successful dinner-theaters here in south Florida for several years and naturally went to the company’s lawyer to do the divorce. He told us, that as a “favor” for all the business we had thrown him in the previous four years it would only cost us $300.00 for a no-fault divorce.
We were appalled. “You mean to tell us that you want $300.00 to have your secretary type our names in the blank spaces of some forms? You’ve got to be out of your mind. I’ll do it myself,” I told him.
“If you buy one of those divorce kits,” he said, “you’ll be sorry.”
“I don’t need a ‘kit’,” I told him. I’ve been around you for four years and I know for a fact that I’m smarter than you are. If YOU can do it, so can I.”
I then went to the courthouse law library and asked the librarian to show me the forms for a n0-fault divorce. She pulled them out for me and I made copies. Next I went to a stationery store and bought a package of legal size paper. I went home, put the paper in my typewriter and copied everything putting our respective names in the proper blanks just as the lawyer’s secretary would have.
Next, I went to the Clerk of the Court’s offices, spread out all the papers and said, “What do you need to have to start this?”
The clerk picked out two or three of the forms.
“What happens now?” I asked.
“You’ll get a notice and your wife will, too. If she want’s to contest it her letter will tell her how. If she doesn’t want to contest it she doesn’t have to do anything.”
When I got back to my apartment I called my soon-to-be ex and told her that the process had begun and all she had to do was to let it play out.
I had to go to the Clerk of the Court twice more to turn over additional papers and finally a date was set for my appearance with a judge. I had to bring someone with me to testify that I had lived in Broward County for at least six months before filing for divorce. As it happened the only person I could get to go with me was the receptionist at the dinner cruise boat company I was working for at the time. Twyla was six feet tall, had flaming red hair and taa taas out too here. When the judge entered the chambers he looked at Twyla, looked at me and then spent quite a while checking out those amazing assets of hers.
“No, your honor,” I said. “She has nothing to do with this other than that she can testify to my resident’s status.”
The judge asked what the problem with the marriage was and I simply told him we were going in different directions with our lives and we wanted to end it before we ended up hating each other.
That was enough for him and he signed the divorce decree. I then went to the Clerk of the Court one final time where I had the papers notarized and paid a fee of $32.50.
I left the courthouse and went to the dinner theater where my wife, the stage manager for the troupe, was in rehearsal.
“Well, Brenda,” I said, “it’s official. We’re not married any more.”
“How much did it cost?”
“Thirty two fifty,” I said. Brenda got her purse, handed me $16.25 and that was the end of our marriage.
They should all be as simple as that.