A Divorce Judge Speaks His Mind: Don’t Let This Happen to You

Conflict is what makes divorce expensive, lengthy and damaging to the parties and their children. In divorce, there are always those cases which are high conflict; however, parties should really consider the damage such conflict creates and should take a lesson from the case of the Ontario, Canada couple Catherine and Larry Bruni. Maybe reading about Mr. and Mrs. Bruni below will make one realize there is a better way to divorce.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Canada) just released the vividly written decision of Justice Quinn in the case of Catherine Bruni v. Larry Bruni on November 29, 2010.  This decision has gone viral I suppose because Justice Quinn’s statements clearly demonstrate his exasperation with this high conflict divorce and the complete disregard this couple have for each other and their children.  Justice Quinn states he turned to ridicule to describe the conduct of the parties, Justice Quinn explained: “the parties repeatedly have shown they are immune to reason. Consequently, in my decision, I have tried ridicule as a last resort.” This decision has resulted in probably the most memorable and sadly descriptive quotes in divorce history:

  1. “Paging Dr. Freud. Paging Dr. Freud. This is yet another case that reveals the ineffectiveness of Family Court in a bitter custody/access dispute, where the parties require therapeutic intervention rather than legal attention. Here, a husband and wife have been marinating in a mutual hatred so intense as to surely amount to a personality disorder requiring treatment.”
  2. “If only the wedding guests, who tinkled their wine glasses as encouragement for a traditional bussing of the bride and groom, could see the couple now. I am prepared to certify a class action for the return of all wedding gifts.”
  3. “The courtroom energy in a custody access dispute spikes quickly when there is evidence that one of the parents has a Hells Angels branch in her family tree. Certainly, my posture improved.”
  4. “It takes a special level of audacity to utter threats under the roof of the courthouse.”
  5. On one occasion while the daughter was having contact with the father the mother texted her to ask: “Is dickhead there?” Of this Justice Quinn said: “The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘dickhead’ as ‘a stupid person.’ That would not have been my first guess.”
  6. Referring to another occasion when the wife attempted to run over the husband Justice Quinn remarked: “This is always a tell-tale sign that a husband and wife are drifting apart”.
  7. “The source of the difficulties is hatred: a hardened, harmful, high-octane hatred. Larry and Catherine hate each other, as do Larry and Sam. This hatred has raged unabated since the date of separation. Consequently, the likelihood of an amicable resolution is laughable (hatred devours reason); and, a satisfactory legal solution is impossible (hatred has no legal remedy).”
  8. “Some family trees have more barren branches than others.”
  9. “As can be seen, Catherine and her relatives are one-dimensional problem solvers.”
  10. “I find that Sandra does not exert a positive gravitational pull in this dysfunctional family constellation.”
  11. “The legal system does not have the resources to monitor a schedule of counselling (nor should it do so). The function of Family Court is not to change people, but to dispose of their disputes at a given point in time. I preside over a court, not a church.”
  12. “I come now to the issue of spousal support, historically the roulette of family law (blindfolds, darts and Ouija boards being optional).”
  13. “While Larry’s access-conduct has largely reflected nothing more than inept parenting, Catherine’s parental-alienation behavior has been evil. Is there a remedy? Dollars cannot replace the father-daughter relationship that Catherine has destroyed. However, in the circumstances of this case, justice has only a Hobson’s choice. Catherine’s alienation of Taylor and Larry must be condemned and, an effective method of expressing that condemnation, is by way of a reduction in spousal support.”
  14. Justice Quinn said that Larry, 38, possesses “a near-empty parenting tool box,” and was fond of venting his anger by sending Catherine insulting text messages and giving her ‘the finger’ as he drove by her home. “A finger is worth a thousand words and therefore, is particularly useful should one have a vocabulary of less than a thousand words,” Justice Quinn added.
  15. Catherine gave her children “advanced animosity-tutoring,” and repeatedly denied Larry access to them, Justice Quinn said. He said that on one occasion, Larry and his daughter were thrown out of a McDonald’s restaurant because she was yelling that he was ‘a deadbeat.’
  16. “It is likely that, in the period 2004-2006, Larry was having one or more extramarital affairs. Interestingly, Larry’s father was married five times, in addition to going through several relationships. Perhaps there is an infidelity gene. “
  17. The Judge did not omit himself from a little ridicule. He said that earlier in the proceedings he had ‘foolishly’ ordered a four-month adjournment so that the parties could attempt to settle their differences through mediation. Referring to this he said: “It is touching how a trial judge can retain his naivety even after 15 years on the bench”.

The Justice Quinn’s full decision is available at http://bit.ly/fRlRaD

While there are many ways to describe Justice Quinn’s decision, it is our hope that parties will not resort to the type of behavior described by Justice Quinn and will instead work in a positive way to transition their and their children’s lives.