A divorce so nasty that the judge joined in

By David Usborne
Saturday 08 January 2011 01:00

For a fictional judge to lace a divorce ruling with sarcastic scorn for the no-longer-in-love parties is one thing. It's daytime soap gold. But in real life no one on the bench begins their august opinion with "Paging Dr Freud, paging Dr Freud" or pauses along the way to ponder the word "dickhead". Do they?

Not often. But an opinion given by Judge Joseph Quinn in southern Ontario, in the case of Larry vs Catherine, has become a viral must-read in family law practices all across North America precisely because he throws to the wind all normal restraint as to his personal distaste for the parties involved

The reference to Freud sets the tone. "Here, a husband and wife have been marinating in a mutual hatred so intense as to surely amount to a personality disorder requiring treatment," he offers at the start of his 31-page ruling. "The source of difficulties is hatred: a hardened, harmful, high-octane hatred."

He excoriates each parent with zeal. Catherine is lashed for "brainwashing" the couple's children to loathe their father and for the depths of her dislike for him which led her once to try to run him down with a van. "This is always a telltale sign that a husband and wife are drifting apart," Judge Quinn opined.

Larry might have come closer to winning the judge's sympathy, if only because of the various threats made to his life by relatives of his wife. "A nautical theme was added," the judge remarked. "According to Larry, 'Catherine's sister-in-law yelled out her window that I was going to be floating in the canal dead'."

And how unkind of Catherine to text her daughter during a visit with her father with the question, "Is Dickhead there?" In a footnote, the judge wrote: "The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines 'dickhead' as 'a stupid person'. That would not have been my first guess."

But Larry fares no better, not least because he possesses "a near-empty tool box" when it comes to parenting and, according to Judge Quinn, has similarly depleted IQ levels. He was, for instance, in the habit of sending vile text messages to his wife as well as driving by her home while giving her "the finger".

"A finger is worth a thousand words and therefore, is particularly useful should one have a vocabulary of less than a thousand words," Judge Quinn wrote tartly.

Judge Quinn knew his venting would attract a deal of attention and was quick to defend himself. "The parties repeatedly have shown they are immune to reason. Consequently, in my decision, I have tried ridicule as a last resort."

As his ruling has flashed up on law practice computer screens everywhere, the response has been quite generous, ranging from "awesome" to "I want to be a snarky judge when I grow up".

The victims, as ever, are the two children. Judge Quinn wrote: "While Larry's access-conduct has largely reflected nothing more than inept parenting, Catherine's parenting-alienation behaviour has been evil."

Judge Quinn made sure to reward neither side. Custody of the daughter, for example, was awarded to Catherine. And Larry was ordered to pay her spousal support in the amount of one dollar a month.

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