Last Thursday I remarked that there are only five basic divorce stories, and one commenter inquired as to what they are. So, here is my wildly unscientific summary, based on my observations after 24 years in the divorce trenches:
1. Infidelity. By a VAST margin the most, uh, "popular" of the basic fact patterns, easily comprising 75% or more of my caseload. Ranges from garden-variety adultery (husband has one night stand on a business trip, or wife rekindles flame with senior prom date at her 25th high school reunion) to sort of mid-level cheating (husband has long-term liaison) to really epic infidelity (husband keeps string of exotic dancers/porn stars on the side). The last variety is available only to hedge fund managers and other potentates due to extraordinary expense thereof.
2. Brief marriage; no kids; all a horrible mistake from the get-go. What were they thinking in the first place? A "starter marriage," if you will. After a year or two of misery they split the wedding gifts and go their separate ways. No harm, no foul.
3. One or both of them is an addict: alcohol/pills/gambling/food/internet porn. Complications ensue.
4. Already wobbly marriage implodes when they have kids; horrifying custody battle ensues that sometimes lasts longer than the marriage did. These are by far the WORST kind of cases, and show people in their least flattering light. I'm getting a stomach ache just thinking about it.
5. Long term marriage, with or without children, fizzles. No big dramatic reason; they just wake up one day and "Eh. Don't want to be married anymore."
6. (OK, OK, there are six, not five): One spouse is a control freak and/or mentally cruel.
Where, do you ask, are all the horrible physical abuse cases? Well, remember, this is a portrait of MY practice, of which such cases are not really a significant feature. I'm not saying that none of my clients have ever been hit, or for that matter administered a slap/punch/kick, but it's almost always in the context of their epic final marital argument, often when they've already been discussing divorce and things get a little heated. It's been nearly fifteen years since I had a client who was really a victim of chronic domestic violence.
So, there you have it: the six basic fact patterns into which my entire caseload can be categorized.