I was divorced in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Fine place if you ask me, but I’d just as soon never visit its court house again. In that place, a guy being sued for divorce has less to fear from federal prosecution under RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act).
I’ve only hit this dance hall once — I think people who put themselves through divorce multiple times are closet masochists — but it’s clear that, for opposing counsel, the strategy used against me is a well rehearsed three-step waltz:
- Serve the defendant with a petition for divorce;
- Serve the defendant with a petition for special relief, to wit, sole occupancy of the marital property by the plaintiff; and
- Initiate proceedings with the Domestic Relations Section who set child custody and support conditions; these will most likely favor the plaintiff.
I call this tidy little combo the Pennsylvania 3-Step, the only dance I know of where your partner is supposed to step on your toes.
If my divorce were a season of Dancing with the Stars, I would be a first round elimination. I was completely unprepared. Out of desperation, I hired apathetic attorneys who did little more than make a few calls, write some feckless letters and give me severe agida. I placed greater emphasis on being with my kids and keeping up with the bills than defending myself against a barrage of petitions with awful implications that resulted in yet more agida.
My third (yes, third) attorney, Ms. Amanda Kurecian, proved to be a keeper, but by the time I stumbled across her, I had already doled out over $5,000. My biggest goof? I believed that, given there were no girlfriends or domestic violence and my ex and I had built a pretty good life for ourselves, opposing counsel had nothing to work with. Silly me!
Listen: Even if during your marriage, you were Mr. Right personified, a guy so perfect that humming birds followed you from your doorstep to your car, an experienced opposing counsel will pick you apart like barbecued ribs if she/he sees your head is not in the game.
It bears repeating: within a week of being served, you could find yourself stepping over used condoms and broken syringes on the way to luxurious accommodations at the local Super 8. Brother, if you haven’t already, you’d better sign up for your dance lessons.