Honor And Honesty Is
Refreshing To See
Guest Author, Anne Kass, - a retired District Judge of Albuquerque, New Mexico
Recently a couple, who had been married for 34 years and divorced for 4, came to court and showed us what integrity looks like. They also proved again that a contract or promise is only as good as the honor of the parties who make it.
This couple had gotten one of those quick, cheap divorces four years earlier. The legal paper work was a mess. About the only thing it did properly was divorce them. Their property settlement agreement divided property they didn't own and didn't mention some property they did own!
However, even though the legal papers were a confused jumble, the two parties had done what they had verbally agreed to do. The husband had paid the wife half of his retirement pay every month although the divorce papers didn't say a word about that income source. He said he did it because he had promised to do it. The wife had signed deeds transferring title of two parcels of real estate to husband, but these transfers weren't listed in the divorce papers. It had been done because that's what they had agreed to do. Also, husband paid debts he wasn't legally bound to pay because he considered it his responsibility to pay the family bills.
They had come back to court four years after the divorce was "final" because the husband had remarried, and his former wife had read the divorce papers, probably for the first time. They didn't make sense to her or her new lawyer, so they reopened the case to get things straightened out. They will almost certainly once again settle their case out of court, largely because they are both unfailingly honest. Even though they can't live together, they are respectful of one another and the years they spent together.
I've also seen other couples, many other couples, who behave in quite the opposite manner. Some of them have legal papers that are pages-long and describe in great detail what each is supposed to do and not do. They return to court year after year because neither of them obeys the "agreement." Neither of them keeps their promises. Typically when one of them violates a provision of the court papers, the other violates a different provision and uses the first party's misbehavior to rationalize his or her own wrongdoing. "She started it," and, "He did it first," are their battle cries.
Couples who do not keep their promises often do not settle cases out of court. They know their agreements aren't worth the paper they're written on. Unfortunately, because they don't practice integrity and they seldom meet their responsibilities, these people frequently don't pay much attention to court orders either. These are the people who keep our court dockets full.
Every once in awhile we get lucky and see men and women who do what they said they'd do. It is a treat when that happens.
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