6 Things Only Divorce Lawyers Know About American Marriages

In our enlightened modern society, we don't let people sign themselves up for a life of slavery (well, aside from the credit industry). And yet we seem perfectly fine with allowing two humans to irrevocably tie their lives together on a whim. We're talking about marriage. Well, no, we're talking about the gritty sequel to marriage: divorce. I've been a lawyer in Mississippi helping clients with divorce cases for 10 years, and I've found that ...

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6
Depending On Your State, You May Not Be Able To Just "Get Divorced"

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In many states, you can get an easy no-fault divorce. When you got married, you didn't know his favorite Voltron was the crappy vehicle one -- you are, and will die, a lion girl. Those are irreconcilable differences, plain as day.

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This is the backbone of any healthy relationship, and damned if we'll listen to a single word otherwise.

But not all states see that clear and indisputable logic. Their reasoning is that making it easy to get out diminishes marriage "as an institution." So if you want out, you have to convince a judge you have a good reason. Not simply "We don't love each other anymore" or "We grew apart" or "Seriously, his favorite pilot is Chip? f**k Chip!" That's not good enough.

You have to prove your spouse did something wrong, or else you're stuck. We're talking about stuff like abuse, infidelity, insanity, "habitual cruel and inhuman treatment," or even "incurable impotence." And the criteria vary from place to place. My state's legislature recently tried to pass a bill that would make domestic violence a ground for divorce, because it somehow wasn't already. And it failed!

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"'Til death do us part" wasn't meant as a challenge, assholes.

Your testimony alone is not enough to prove these grounds; you need corroborating evidence. Don't have it? Well, the bailiff hands you a copy of Stephen Stills' "Love The One You're With" and points you toward the door.

5
There's A Lot Of Surprising Amateur Porn

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A few years ago, I had a divorce case involving a conservative couple in their mid-40s (I represented the husband). Right before we started the trial, the opposing lawyer handed me a photo I'd never seen before. It was of my client, the down-home country boy, wearing a long brunette wig and provocative black lingerie ... in the act of getting oral attention from another man.

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"Looks like your client and your case both got blown."

So we immediately lost, right? Well, no. The wife was the photographer, and since she was the "trois" of this menage, the photo had no relevance and I got it excluded. But another time -- again, with me representing the husband -- the opposing lawyer sent me a video of my client's alleged mistress masturbating on a bed while moaning my client's name. Speaking purely as your defense, this does not qualify as a "fun little surprise."

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OK, well it's not just a fun little surprise.

Surprise evidence is a tricky area for lawyers, though. When you plan to use something solely for "impeachment" (that is, to catch someone in a lie) and you accordingly do not disclose it to the other side ahead of time, you are running the risk that a judge might not allow it into evidence. Your potential pro is catching the witness in a lie, but the con is going into trial down a piece of evidence on very short notice.

Also, you'll then have had to watch porn of unattractive people for no good reason. That's more of a personal downside, though.

4
Even Proven Adultery Doesn't Always Guarantee A Divorce Ruling

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One client of mine was on the stand and was asked about an incident which led him to believe his longtime wife had been committing adultery. He had to explain to a very serious-looking group of strangers that, as he was making love to his wife, another man's condom "fell out of her." If there is a worse way to find out your spouse is cheating, it has not been legally recorded.

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But adultery isn't always the end of the world in a divorce case. Judges hear about crackheads leaving babies in locked cars during the summer, couples brutally abusing each other, vehicle f*****g Voltrons -- a single moment of sexual indiscretion doesn't necessarily cause them to fly into a righteous rage.

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"I had a couple this morning who assigned household chores via knife fight. Could you at least try to make this interesting?"

We even have a defense to the statutory grounds of adultery called "condonation." This means that if someone has an extramarital affair, and their spouse finds out about it but then forgives the affair, then the spouse can't later use said affair as grounds for divorce. You don't even have to formally say "I forgive you." One way to "prove" that a spouse has "gotten over" adultery is if they continue having sex with their partner after finding out about the affair.

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We never knew make-up sex could be legally binding.

This leads to some shady strategies. I once had a client who discovered his wife was cheating on him. She then found out (or at least strongly suspected) that he knew about it. They started sleeping in separate bedrooms. Then she talked to a divorce lawyer, who told her about condonation. The next morning, my client awoke to find her on top of him, naked. Luckily, he was still angry enough to refuse the attempted seduction, but not everyone has that strength. My client ended up having to put a deadbolt on his bedroom door until she finally moved out and stopped ambush-stripping for him.

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3
Domestic Abuse Is Unnecessarily Hard To Prove

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I had a male client who'd been physically abused by his wife -- punching, kicking, one day she even came at him with a butcher knife. The only way he could protect himself was to grab her arms and physically restrain her until he could wrestle the weapon away. At which point he ran into another room, locked the door, and called the police. When they arrived, the wife showed them the marks on her arms -- on account of my client not being down for a playful stabbing -- and claimed abuse.

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"Sorry, but until you can show us a lacerated organ, we're forced to assume she was doing dinner prep."

Now, are you skeptical of my client's story? Do you think perhaps he made up the prior incidents, and he really was the guilty party? That's how the court thinks. Claims of abuse require corroborating evidence -- another witness, photographs, medical records, something more than the spouse's testimony. But most abusers know better than to helpfully record their crimes for later archival. Abuse typically occurs in the home with solely the concerned parties present. This is a problem, one that is often insurmountable. I personally do not like the requirement of corroboration. We're not talking about criminally convicting an allegedly abusive spouse here, after all -- we're merely trying to meet a legal standard for someone to stop being married to another person.

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"Divorce denied. You two will laugh about this when you get old, assuming you both survive that long."

In another case (a custody modification case, not a divorce, but it illustrates the point), I represented the biological father of an 11-year-old boy whose stepfather was abusing both him and his younger brother. The stepfather -- who happened to be a professional with a wealthy family -- continually denied the abuse and insisted the kids were lying (he claimed they wanted attention). The mother even went along with this and helped with the cover-up.

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Luckily, the dad bought his son a smartphone, and the next time the stepfather started screaming and choking his little brother, the kid recorded it. Law enforcement finally got involved, and the kids were removed and placed with their biological father. But without that video, the abuse would probably still be going on today. With it, criminal charges are now pending against the stepfather, and hopefully at least some serious karmic backlash is pending for the mother. We're talking paper-cut-on-the-webbing-between-the-fingers-caliber punishment here, at least.

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2
People Let The Pettiest Things Sink Them

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Bad blood and spite govern a divorcing couple's decisions. Often, people could easily compromise on issues and move on with their lives, but they refuse because they either want to punish the other person or they don't want to be perceived as letting them win.

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One wealthy couple had been married for 20 years, despite absolutely hating each other. After lengthy litigation, the other divorce attorney and I agreed on everything except a single issue: How much each would get from the other's retirement account. The land and other assets they'd already agreed upon were worth over $1 million, while the ridiculous retirement dispute involved less than $100 per month. It was pure spite, but this trifling issue caused the divorce to drag out for two more years, with thousands of dollars incurred in attorneys' fees.

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Yeah, that'll teach them.

Another divorcing couple had been married 15 years. After much argument, they finally agreed on everything except one issue: an autographed AC/DC T-shirt from a concert they'd attended earlier. They both wanted it (or at least, each didn't want the other one to have it). They nuked the whole agreement over that T-shirt -- we again went to a lengthy trial, with all the exorbitant costs involved. The judge ordered the T-shirt to be sold online, and the profits divided between the parties. They ended up getting about $20 each from the sale. King Solomon's a m**********r sometimes.

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1
If You're Denied Divorce, Your Marriage Might Actually Work Out (Emphasis On "Might")

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Then there's the white whale, the unicorn, the triple rainbow: the ever-elusive marriage that ends up working out happily ever after ... the nasty divorce trial.

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It happens! I once had a client -- an older guy who'd worked himself up from being a janitor to a successful businessman -- whose wife of 30 years was divorcing him. She'd had affairs (plural). She'd frivolously spent loads of their money. Then she filed for divorce, presumably to get more cash without all the trouble of sneaking around. Did he hire me to engage in a pit bull defense, burning the proverbial house down around her ears? No. He hired me to defend the marriage, because he still loved her. Even with so much troubled water beneath the bridge, he thought she was "going through a phase" and would come back around.

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We'd be a little concerned that the next "phase" might be cyanide in our coffee, but that's love for you.

So when she filed for divorce, we filed pleadings denying she had any grounds. Throughout pretrial litigation, she went berserk. She showed up at his business one day and started screaming at the employees, calling them homosexual slurs and "crackheads," accusing them of all sorts of wrongdoing. She and their adult daughter got into a fistfight, and law enforcement became involved. She even claimed my client was having an affair with a male employee (he was not, and it was easily provable). But after lengthy discovery and a trial, we won. The judge denied the divorce.

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Marking the one time when "Your funeral, buddy" constituted a judicial ruling.

They're still married today. And the last time I spoke to them, they were ... somehow getting along. It probably helps that he buys her nice cars and gives her money every week, which is certainly a lot more than I'd do under those circumstances. But they're both making an effort. They make dinner together, go to their grandchildren's ball games, and so on. It's perhaps my most shocking case of all. Especially since this case was already mentioned earlier in the article. This is the woman who had another man's condom fall out of her while having sex with her husband.

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Love is beautiful.

Sometimes.

Other times, it's super gross.

Ryan Menezes is an editor and interviewer here at Cracked. Follow him on Twitter for stuff cut from this article and other things no one should see.

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