“Love, the quest. Marriage, the conquest. And divorce, the inquest.” So said American humorist Helen Rowland.
And no one is more familiar with matrimonial inquisitions than Vanessa Lloyd Platt, a divorce lawyer in London, England. Platt is campaigning to reform the UK’s divorce laws to include “no-fault divorce.”
Antiquated British law still grants a divorce based on reasons of adultery, abandonment and, here’s the real culprit, “unreasonable behaviour.” This last loophole of dissolution allows either spouse to stand up in court and slag the other with such petty and crazy accusations, judges often call a recess, in order to stem the laughter.
“It’s insane,” says Platt. “These things should not have any part in the procedure.”
By these things, barrister Platt is referring to a few of the stranger accusations she has heard in her 30 years of trying to separate spouses on a permanent basis.
One Englishman filed for divorce on the basis that his wife “had maliciously and repeatedly served him his least favourite dish, tuna casserole.” “Wot? Tuna again?” In a country where fish and chips are a two- and three-night dinner choice, it’s a wonder anybody stays married.
Another man petitioned for divorce because his wife “would, without justification, flirt with any builder or tradesman, inappropriately touching them and declaring that she could not stop herself.” I make that to be Joan Collins' fourth divorce … as well as an upcoming episode between Becky and Jason on Coronation Street. “Honey! There’s 14 plumbers at the back door! Is the loo backed up again?!”
One woman sued for divorce because “her husband insisted she dress and speak in the language of a Klingon character from Star Trek.” It’s called “Captain Kirk’s kinky Klingon syndrome.” The judge ordered both of them to Noshi Shofet and the divorce decree was granted in Di Tsenterpartey.
One divorce petition filed by a wife described the scene in which her husband “insisted that his pet tarantula, Timmy, slept in a glass case next to the matrimonial bed.” “Does Timmy want to tickle Mummy’s belly button?” I just don’t see the “unreasonable behaviour” in wanting to have a large, hairy venomous spider next to you while you sleep.
The most common complaints heard at British divorce proceedings were of husbands with atrocious body odour, and other spouses who changed TV channels too quickly. A combination of both was deadly. This last double whammy – slow on the Speed Stick, rapid on the remote – may have been a factor in the case of a security officer from Walworth, England, named Alhaji Mohamed. He set the record at London’s High Court when he divorced two wives in less than 15 minutes. Both petitioners were initiated by the wives.
Maintaining British civility, the presiding judge said: “This must be the very first time in these courts that two ladies have been able to divorce the same gentleman in one afternoon.”
Mr. Mohamed’s daily double of divorce could have been much worse. Under Muslim law, he’s entitled up to four wives. That could have taken the better part of an hour and required numbers on the backs of the petitioners.
No such speed record for Glynn de Moss Wolfe who was last seen making plans for his twenty-second wedding. Although divorced 21 times, Mr. Wolfe does not take the act of dissolution lightly in that he can recite by heart the names of each of his ex-wives.
Englishman David Funk has no trouble remembering the names of his five ex-wives; they were all named Dorothy. Same woman every time.
Jerzy and Kathryn Sluckin were married at the registry office in Kensington, England, and within an hour the bride declared it would not work and vanished. I know this sounds kind of fast and frivolous, but really, it was a full hour. Think about it. In that space of time Glynn de Moss Wolfe could have introduced Alhaji Mohamed to three new wives and before the full hour was up, they could have divorced him.
All this nonsense is driving people crazy, even newlyweds. So who can blame British groom Max Kay for being a little upset when he was presented with a very high bill at Peckforton Castle in Cheshire, which he had rented for the reception? While his new wife slept in the bridal suite, Max set the castle on fire. In order to calm his nerves, witnesses said Max drank 20 double vodkas at the reception. His wife spent the night on the lawn of the burning castle with 70 friends and family wrapped in blankets. Max got six years for arson; the marriage got nowhere at all.
Lawyer Vanessa Lloyd Platt admitted it is sometimes hard to keep a straight face as in the petition claiming, “The respondent is unreasonably demanding sex every night from the petitioner, which is causing friction between the parties.” An unfortunate choice of words since it is the lack of friction between the parties that is at the root of the problem.
Brits – not great at marriage; really, really bad at divorce.
MARCH 2013 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE