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DivorceNew York style divorce litigation reaps explosive results

July 12, 2006

In an aptly titled article Real Estate and Rubble: When Marriages Go Awry , the New York  Times  stated:

“. . .[I]n New York, lawyers say, while blowing up a building is extreme, vindictiveness is not unusual. Divorce lawyers said they had seen pets killed and wives given theater tickets so their husbands could put their possessions on the street.”

“Some say such spiraling levels of anger, rage and eventually violence are a function of New York’s cumbersome divorce laws, which require one spouse to find fault with the other and thus encourage lawyers to keep the fight going as long as possible, spousal tensions rising all along.”

The Times continued: “If Las Vegas is the capital of instant divorce, New York City is the worldwide capital of unfathomably big awards and ferocious litigation. Think of Donald and Ivana Trump, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Donna Hanover, Jocelyne and Alec Wildenstein, Ronald O. Perelman and Patricia Duff”

The absence is of a true no-fault divorce is more than problematic. In the best cases, the absence of a no-fault divorce requires a party to perjure him/herself to state grounds to obtain a divorce.  In the worst cases, it gives license to the spouse against whom a divorce is sought to extort money and other concessions from spouse seeking the divorce. Opposition to the grounds for divorce is often withdrawn after the party seeking divorce gives in on some unrelated issue.

In cases where a party is unable or unwilling make some concession, the parties must, as the Times correctly points out, litigate. As the litigation progresses and the accusations and vitriol increase, it is only natural that the parties become more desperate and more despondent.

Dr. Bartha’s actions are inexcusable. But it is foreseeable that a person suffering from mental illness, thrust in a system that rewards conflict and confrontation, could, when faced with certain defeat, violently lash out with destructive force. Indeed, Dr. Bartha’s former lawyer portrays his client as being “ hounded by aggressive lawyers who stripped him of his dignity and everything he owned, taking his beloved house when he was too depressed to defend himself.”

Will adopting a no-fault divorce law end all destructive conduct in divorces? No. But a more liberal law will certainly ratchet down the acrimony that leads to these cruel and violent acts.

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