October 7, 2021

Irretrievable Breakdown, Who Says?

Nicole and Doug Potts entered a Kentucky family court hearing on August 6 expecting to leave  divorced.  They had agreed, after much marriage counseling, that the marriage was irretrievably broken (the standard to get a divorce) and on almost all of the terms of the divorce. Primarily for the benefit of their daughter, the couple had maintained a respectful relationship. They left court still married!  The judge had denied the divorce and ordered them to attend reconciliation counseling. She was so impressed at how they were cordial to each other that she wasn’t convinced that the marriage had irretrievably broken down although she knew they’d been separated since last year and that Doug was dating. That couldn’t happen in Connecticut.  Under our law, the spouses, not the judge, decide if the marriage is irretrievably broken down and that’s it.

If they agree on nothing else, most couples can agree if the marriage has broken down irretrievably. But sometimes they don’t agree.  One may have a sincere religious or moral objection to divorce, hope for reconciliation or concern about the effect on children of a “broken home”. None of these reasons will avoid the divorce. Others may say the marriage can be saved to exert control over, threaten, harass or gain a strategic advantage over their spouse.  In these circumstances too, the divorce will be granted if one spouse says there is irretrievable breakdown. Offering to participate in counseling, refusing to participate in the case, demanding expert testimony or refusing to appear in court won’t thwart the divorce.  

The bottom line is that you can’t prevent your spouse from divorcing you.  It’s a waste of time, money and energy to fight it.  Better to conserve your resources and work with your lawyer to maximize the outcome.  And whether you do it for your child, like the Potts, there are a host of other reasons for trying to divorce respectfully, if not cordially.

So what happened to the Potts?  According to Nicole’s lawyer, as of a week or so ago, the Potts were still married.  They await the judge’s ruling on Nicole’s motion to reconsider the request to divorce. But I’ll be sure to follow the case and update you.

This article was first published in the October 7, 2021 edition of The Cheshire Citizen.

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