An unpublished opinion out of Orange County reminds us how silly people can be when they let their emotions take over in divorce.
Sara and Doug are both lawyers. Sara and Doug were married. Sara and Doug got divorced. During the divorce Doug succumbed to a severe bought of depression, and a guardian ad litem negotiated the divorce settlement on his behalf. The settlement, which was filed on July 1, 2008, was a fair one. It included language that each account the couple had was to “be divided equally between the parties.” Sounds pretty simple right? Don’t be so sure. . . .
Doug is managing the accounts, so he is the one who has to contact the banks and brokers and get them divided. The dates here are important. In 2008 the stock market is in a free fall. Sara and Doug’s accounts are shrinking in value faster than George Costanza swimming in the ocean. Doug is dawdling. In October, 2008 Sara files a follow-up motion with the court to get the accounts divided. However, she tries to slip a curve ball by the court, and her order provides that the accounts will be divided so that she gets 50% of their July value, rather than half of their much lower October value. The effect of that language is that she ends up getting a whole lot more money than Doug.
Everyone goes to court. Everyone but Sara — including the Judge — presumes Sara simply wants an equal division of the accounts at their current value. The order gets signed. Sara divides the accounts, and then Doug realizes he has been eviscerated by a threaded, tapered metal cylinder.
The parties spend the next four years filing and litigating appeals! In the end the appellate court reaches a wonderfully simple, and appropriate decision. It holds that Sara’s craftily written October, 2008 order was void because division of the accounts had already been resolved by the July, 2008 order. End of story, 50/50 division at the lower values. Oh and by the way Sara, you get to pay for Doug’s costs on appeal.
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