Are you worried about your upcoming divorce ruling? That’s natural.
But your situation is likely to be far from the worst divorce ruling on record. There are simply too many other contenders for that title.
Don’t believe us? Read on…
The Besen Case: When the Judge Favors the Powerful
In 2010, Margaret Besen of Long Island, NY, had no reason to suspect that she would be the victim of a nasty divorce ruling. Her husband earned half a million a year while she was a mother of two young children. Why wouldn’t Judge William Kent be fair with the economic settlement of their divorce?
And she had taken out a restraining order against her husband for his episodes of yelling and intimidation. Her protective order extended to their children. So, custody shouldn’t be a problem, either.
The Initial Rulings Fail to Have an Impact
The initial rulings seemed just. Her confidence in the fairness of divorce law seemed justified. Her husband had to pay $200 a week in child support and another $500 per month for the car payments.
But her husband didn’t live up to the child support agreement. Neither did he stay current with the money for the car payments.
The Final Rulings Leave Wife Trapped in Poverty
In time, Margaret was having trouble making ends meet. She had to turn to the local food pantry to provide meals for the kids. And her car was repossessed, leaving her with only a bicycle for transportation.
The worst was yet to come. The judge’s final ruling came just six weeks after the court order of protection. Regardless, the divorce order gave her husband full custody.
The judge decreed that she would have to refund her husband half the money he paid for her nursing degree. She was also ordered to sell her engagement ring and give half the money to her husband.
What about child support? Because the judge had given custody to her husband, he now ordered Margaret to pay child support. She was expected to pay $153.90 a week. But her nursing degree could only get her a part-time job at $13,000 a year.
Possible Reasons for the One-Sided Rulings
Why might the ruling have been so bad? It turns out that her husband, the town’s lawyer, had various connections outside the courtroom with local judges.
For example, he was on the state commission that vetted judicial candidates. His law office also donated money to judicial campaigns.
What other evidence is there that there may have been an undue influence? As part of the settlement, the judge ordered that the family house be sold.
And who was listed as the broker? Judge Kent’s wife.
The Pitt-Jolie Case: When the Judge Looks Out for His Business Interests
Actress Angelina Jolie was so upset with a judge’s decision that she had him removed from her divorce case. In 2016, Jolie filed for divorce from fellow actor Brad Pitt.
Together the couple had six children. In 2021, as the divorce dragged on, there was a contentious battle over custody of the five youngest kids. The oldest was no longer a minor.
Jolie Detects Favoritism
Jolie believed that her husband’s alcohol abuse, drug use, and violent outbursts made the children prefer spending time with her. And she was convinced that it was in the children’s best interest to allow them to testify during the custody proceedings.
But Judge John Ouderkirk disagreed. Convinced she and the kids were being denied a fair trial, Jolie asked an appeals court to remove the judge.
Unethical Business Dealings Discovered
The court did remove the judge, citing a possible reason for Judge Ouderkirk’s bias towards Pitt. The court unearthed an existing business relationship between the judge and the lawyers on Pitt’s legal team.
The relationship had never been disclosed. The court ruled it was an ethical breach on the judge’s part, which made it less likely for him to remain impartial.
The Tsimhoni Case: When the Judge Loses Her Composure
Suburban Detroit Judge Lisa Gorcyca made international headlines in 2015 during one the worst divorces a court is likely to see. She sent people to jail.
But it wasn’t the husband and wife that she found in contempt. It was their three minor children.
The Judge vs. the Kids
They were ages 9, 10, and 13. She sent them to a juvenile detention facility for over two weeks. What made the judge so angry? Were the kids screaming and vandalizing her courtroom?
No, Judge Gorcyca was upset that the kids didn’t feel comfortable around their father, so they refused her order to spend time with him. For example, the kids resisted entering the courtroom on one occasion. Sitting in chairs in the hallway, they locked their arms together in a show of solidarity.
After 17 days, the judge ordered their release from the Children’s Village detention facility so they could attend summer camp. However, later they were forced to undergo a five-day reunification program designed to reconcile children who are alienated from their parents.
The judge then gave the father temporary custody. And the mother whom the children favored was ordered to stay away from the kids for 90 days.
Judge’s Outburst Leads to Her Removal
Judge Gorcyca was eventually removed from the case and accused of judicial misconduct when she scolded one of the children with derogatory language. She referred to the oldest boys’ actions as those similar to the late cult leader Charles Manson.
On that day, the judge had ordered the children to interact with their father at the courthouse, but the children wouldn’t have anything to do with their father.
The judge even wrote words for the mother to read to the children, saying their father loved them. But the children remained uncommunicative. So, the judge initiated contempt hearings.
The oldest boy did apologize to the judge but resisted apologizing to his father. The son maintained that his father was a domestic abuser of his mother. That’s when the judge exploded and held the kids in contempt of court.
What’s the Worst Divorce You’ve Heard About?
We’re sure you’d agree that the stories we’ve related involve some of the worst divorce rulings you could imagine. Of course, the average divorce will have its challenges, but nothing a skilled divorce attorney can’t navigate either through the legal process or collaborative divorce / mediation with optimal success for their clients.