"For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?" On this, the 235th birthday of Jane Austen, I thought there could be no better illustration of that wonderful line from Pride and Prejudice than a divorce anecdote showing human folly in all its glory.
Most lawyers I know loathe getting involved in a discussion of the division of a divorcing couple's "stuff" (a technical legal term for the crap that fills most of our houses and apartments). We're not talking about the valuable art work or priceless antiques or oriental rugs here (those are significant assets and are usually valued by neutral appraisers and then divided in some fashion between the parties), but rather the sofa from Crate and Barrel in the basement rec room, the kitchen paraphernalia, the old TV set in the guest room, etc. etc. As one of my partners says, "I'm not a furniture lawyer; figure it out yourself." So, except in the bitterest of cases the couple does just that -- they don't bother the lawyers (at, let's face it, ungodly hourly rates) with their disputes over these issues. Occasionally, however, we DO have to step in. About ten years ago I had a case where the other lawyer and I had to go the couple's beautifully-appointed Fifth Avenue apartment. The distribution of the Bosendorfer piano and the Aubusson carpets had already been agreed upon, but they couldn't come to an agreement on -- get this -- the pots and pans and other kitchen things. The apartment had been the husband's prior to the marriage (a relatively brief, childless union between two older people), so the wife was shortly to vacate the premises. One evening after work the other attorney and I schlepped up to the apartment to referee the division. After hours of excruciating debate over the fish poacher and the broiler pan, etc., the wife (not MY client I hasten to add), went into the pantry and began going through the FOOD, including opened boxes of breakfast cereals, indicating that she was going to take them. My client was embarrassed, but said "yes, yes, fine." However, when she got to an unopened jar of white asparagus, my client wouldn't budge. "NO. That's it. No more." Tears, screaming, etc., but the wife finally relented. A few months later at Christmas, I sent my long-suffering adversary a jar of white asparagus. And to this day, whenever we see each other in court, we ask each other if it's asparagus season.