snopes.com  

Go Back   snopes.com > Urban Legends > Legal Affairs

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 24 September 2010, 04:54 PM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,807
Judge No-show divorce

Comment: This really happened and was featured on Jay Leno more than 8
years ago...

The wife of a business man was reading the morning paper while
her husband was at the office working. She was reading the divorce
decrees to see if she knew anyone there and was shocked to read her
own name as well as her husbands name in a divorce decree! When her
husband came home from work, she was very upset and asked him why
the paper said that they were getting a divorce. "Nothing to worry
about dear, must be a friend pulling a joke, I'll find out at the office
tommorrow"! He assurred her.

Assuming this was a hoax, she went about her business for the next two
days, when a summons to appear in Divorce (Federal) Court arrived for
her! When her husband returned from work that night, she was
hysterical! "What on earth is going on, who is doing this"? She
demanded to know. "I promise I will find out tommorrow"! He told her
again.

This time she was going to ask her husband right when he got home the
next day. "So, who was it"? She asked eagerly. "Oh, it was this wierd
guy from accounting. He thought it would make a funny April Fools joke,
remember it is April now"! He calmed her with. She was now satisfied
that her husband loved her and everything was fine. The date for the
court appearance came and went, as her husband told her to disregard
it. While cleaning one afternoon, she was startled by a knock at the
door. It was her judgement for divorce notice, the divorce was final.
When she assumed her husband told her the truth, she never showed up
for the hearing, which was real and the husband won by default! He got
EVERYTHING!
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 24 September 2010, 05:12 PM
GenYus234's Avatar
GenYus234 GenYus234 is online now
 
Join Date: 02 August 2005
Location: Mesa, AZ
Posts: 19,970
Default

While it is possible that a husband (or wife) might convice the SO not to appear in court because it was a "joke", I doubt that the result of not showing up would be a default judgement giving the other party nothing. Otherwise, there would be lot of cases of one of the parties sabotauging the other party's car to prevent them showing up. And I really doubt that a divorce can happen without both parties signing off on it.

PS. Would a paper really print a divorce decree before the divorce was actually settled?
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 24 September 2010, 05:28 PM
A Turtle Named Mack's Avatar
A Turtle Named Mack A Turtle Named Mack is offline
 
Join Date: 21 June 2007
Location: Marietta, GA
Posts: 18,153
Default

1. Divorces are NEVER handled in federal court - it is entirely a state law issue (other than enforcing Full Faith and Credit as to other states' decrees)

2. Any lawsuit, such as divorce, requires the papers to be served on the defendant. In many cases, the process server can hand the papers to a responsible adult living at the defendant's residence, but for obvious reasons, this is not allowed in divorces. The woman would have had to have been handed the summons and complaint personally.

3. No judge would allow a divorce with assets involved to proceed by default. S/he would insist on knowing why the respondent had not filed an answer or made an appearance.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 24 September 2010, 05:30 PM
GenYus234's Avatar
GenYus234 GenYus234 is online now
 
Join Date: 02 August 2005
Location: Mesa, AZ
Posts: 19,970
Default

The OP said that she had received a summons, but claimed she ignored it because her husband said it was a joke. Since it said she asked him when he returned from work, I assumed she directly received the summons.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 24 September 2010, 05:33 PM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,807
Ponder

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Turtle Named Mack View Post
The woman would have had to have been handed the summons and complaint personally.
The anecdote in the OP does state that "a summons to appear in Divorce Court arrived for her"; the issue was that her husband told her should could ignore them.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 24 September 2010, 05:45 PM
diddy's Avatar
diddy diddy is offline
 
Join Date: 07 March 2004
Location: Plymouth, MN
Posts: 10,652
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
The anecdote in the OP does state that "a summons to appear in Divorce Court arrived for her"; the issue was that her husband told her should could ignore them.
You would think that a judge wouldn't take to kindly to a summons being ignored and would issue a warrant for her arrest too. That assumes that said wife wouldn't obey said summons. I don't care what my hypothetical spouse (since I am unmarried), if I get a summons, I am going to respond to it - at the very least call a lawyer or the court to figure out what the h-t-double hockey sticks is going on.

A judge though is probably not going to say "well since the other party hasn't showed up after two days and has no legal representation, I'm going to assume that there isn't any fraud going on and grant the divorce outright 100% in the favor of the other person."

ETA: Partially spanked - missed a post by A Turtle Named Mack.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 24 September 2010, 05:50 PM
sarahmonkey's Avatar
sarahmonkey sarahmonkey is offline
 
Join Date: 25 March 2005
Location: Monett, MO
Posts: 2,973
Default

SO was given exactly what he asked for in his divorce because his ex didn't show up to court. If she had been there, she could have made her case for a different custody agreement, but she didn't bother to show. That being said, she did have to sign papers agreeing to answer his petition within 30 days or the case would go before a judge. She didn't file an answer or go to court, and the judge had no reason to feel that SO's petition was unfair, so he signed off on it and that was that. Not at all the same as the OP, but if one party doesn't show up, it's not exactly the judge's job to seek that person out and make sure they didn't show up on purpose, you know?
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 24 September 2010, 05:52 PM
A Turtle Named Mack's Avatar
A Turtle Named Mack A Turtle Named Mack is offline
 
Join Date: 21 June 2007
Location: Marietta, GA
Posts: 18,153
Judge

Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
The anecdote in the OP does state that "a summons to appear in Divorce Court arrived for her"; the issue was that her husband told her should could ignore them.
'arrived for her' is not the same as 'served' though, and you really would not miss the import of being served, if this were a real situation.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 24 September 2010, 06:00 PM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,807
Jaded

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Turtle Named Mack View Post
'arrived for her' is not the same as 'served' though
Not really, since it isn't necessarily different, either -- it doesn't say "some papers came in the mail" or provide any other detail that would preclude the papers' having been properly served.

Quote:
and you really would not miss the import of being served, if this were a real situation.
Really? A stranger simply handing over some papers and walking away is so full of import that even someone completely unfamiliar with the process couldn't possibly fail to recognize it as momentous?
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 24 September 2010, 06:02 PM
Lainie's Avatar
Lainie Lainie is offline
 
Join Date: 29 August 2005
Location: Suburban Columbus, OH
Posts: 67,324
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahmonkey View Post
SO was given exactly what he asked for in his divorce because his ex didn't show up to court.
He probably didn't ask for 100% of everything they owned, though, did he?
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 24 September 2010, 06:05 PM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,807
Judge

Quote:
You would think that a judge wouldn't take to kindly to a summons being ignored and would issue a warrant for her arrest too.
Can a judge really issue a bench warrant for failure to respond to a civil court summons? I think, in general, a summons is a notice that one is supposed to appear in court (as opposed to a subpoena, which is an order that requires one to appear); the penalty for failure to appear is therefore the risk of a default judgement, not arrest or criminal penalty.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 24 September 2010, 06:12 PM
sarahmonkey's Avatar
sarahmonkey sarahmonkey is offline
 
Join Date: 25 March 2005
Location: Monett, MO
Posts: 2,973
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
He probably didn't ask for 100% of everything they owned, though, did he?
Hahaha nope. They didn't own much anyway. He fairly divided their assets and debts. What she would have objected to was the custody arrangement -- she wanted 50/50 custody and she wanted him to pay child support. He asked for sole physical custody and got it.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 24 September 2010, 06:14 PM
wanderwoman's Avatar
wanderwoman wanderwoman is online now
 
Join Date: 29 December 2004
Location: Elkhart, IN
Posts: 7,378
Default

In CHINS proceedings, the judge in the county I used to work in would rule by default if the parent failed to show for an initial CHINS hearing, but issue a bench warrant if a parent failed to show for a Rule to Show Cause. I can't guarantee everything he did was legal, though.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 24 September 2010, 06:16 PM
GenYus234's Avatar
GenYus234 GenYus234 is online now
 
Join Date: 02 August 2005
Location: Mesa, AZ
Posts: 19,970
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
Really? A stranger simply handing over some papers and walking away is so full of import that even someone completely unfamiliar with the process couldn't possibly fail to recognize it as momentous?
A stranger who asked for you by name, then handed you papers and probably said some version of "you have been served"? I would say most people would figure something was up. Door-to-door sales and religious persons usually don't ask for you by name.

Also, does the server have to get (or try to get) a signature acknowledging the service?

PS. In the OP, the wife knew it was enough to become gonadical about it.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 24 September 2010, 06:29 PM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,807
Jaded

Quote:
Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
A stranger who asked for you by name, then handed you papers and probably said some version of "you have been served"? I would say most people would figure something was up.
Yeah, maybe something like, "It's too bad they couldn't find a uniform for the substitute mailman."

Quote:
In the OP, the wife knew it was enough to become gonadical about it.
About the content of the summons, not about the process of being served. And the former was what she was informed she could safely ignore.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 24 September 2010, 06:31 PM
Lainie's Avatar
Lainie Lainie is offline
 
Join Date: 29 August 2005
Location: Suburban Columbus, OH
Posts: 67,324
Default

I wouldn't even think that. I've had mail delivered by non-uniformed sub/temp postal workers.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 24 September 2010, 06:33 PM
GenYus234's Avatar
GenYus234 GenYus234 is online now
 
Join Date: 02 August 2005
Location: Mesa, AZ
Posts: 19,970
Default

Who ring the doorbell, wait for you to answer, confirm your name (possibly), then give you your mail? I've only had that happen for a registered letter, which itself usually means something. For packages, they ring the bell and leave, without waiting for anyone to answer and certainly without getting name confirmation.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 24 September 2010, 06:38 PM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,807
Judge

Quote:
Originally Posted by wanderwoman View Post
In CHINS proceedings, the judge in the county I used to work in would rule by default if the parent failed to show for an initial CHINS hearing, but issue a bench warrant if a parent failed to show for a Rule to Show Cause.
I think the distinction is that a Rule to Show Cause is an order, not a summons (i.e., appearance in response to it is mandatory).
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 24 September 2010, 06:41 PM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,807
Jaded

Quote:
Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
Who ring the doorbell, wait for you to answer, confirm your name (possibly), then give you your mail?
A private courier, for one. We've had (non-legal) material delivered to us that way.

Whatever the answer, it's unlikely that someone completely unfamiliar with the concept of process serving would react by thinking to herself, "That was odd -- I wonder if I've been served with a summons?"
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 24 September 2010, 06:48 PM
Lainie's Avatar
Lainie Lainie is offline
 
Join Date: 29 August 2005
Location: Suburban Columbus, OH
Posts: 67,324
Default

The woman in the story is painted as being extremely naive and sheltered.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Hotel sued for causing divorce snopes Legal Affairs 8 18 December 2009 03:10 PM
Divorce, custody, and Pepsi-Cola snopes Legal Affairs 41 27 August 2007 07:13 AM


All times are GMT. The time now is 07:54 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.