As a young boy in the 80's, I was your typical American latch-key kid who's parents both worked and the Tell-A-Vision was my after school
While touted as presenting real cases to television audiences, the stories from earlier versions of Divorce Court were actually re-enactments of divorce cases presented by actors.
Actors portrayed the litigants - the plaintiff, who initiated the divorce proceedings; the defendant, who either sought a reconciliation or sought a divorce decree of his/her own; and a number of witnesses, who testified on behalf of one of the litigants. Meanwhile student attorneys would argue the cases.
Each episode followed a basic formula, as follows:
- Each attorney giving opening statements.
- The litigants, along with one or two supporting witnesses, giving their side of the story and enduring cross-examination.
- Closing arguments.
- The judge's decision, followed by appropriate reactions by each side.
Many of the stories had standard marital issues: mental and/or physical abuse, adultery, desertion and other irreconcilable differences. As with most courtroom-based television programs through the ages (and to keep audiences interested), the stories were hardly the sort of the unloved wife's affair with the milkman or the husband's meddlesome mother interfering with and ultimately ruining the marriage. Rather, Divorce Court tended to present more sensational cases with "shock value."
Oh yes, watching the Tell-A-Vision day after day certainly made me believe I knew what the American Family Court system was all about.
Judge William Keene was very fair, impartial, level-headed, and he took no shit from men and women alike. He kept an orderly court and his rulings were reasonable and most times the viewer couldn't argue with the outcomes he adjudicated.
I recall many tales of adultery, cruelty, abandonment, child abuse, spousal rape, physical abuse, theft all played out in a 30 minute show....and it exposed my adolescent mind to the various vagaries of human behaviors that both men and women engage in that bring about the failure of their marriage.
I remember episodes in which a wife who slept with her husband's brother lost custody and was ordered to pay all the court fees.
I remember episodes in which the wife with held sex from her husband for several years and lost the case due to abandonment. Husband got the money, house and alimony payments.
Of course there were plenty of cases in which the husband was an abusive asshole or a philandering dirt bag, and they too got their just rewards at the drop of Judge Keene's hammer. All these hours of passively watching "dramatic portrayals of real life cases" had to have certainly shaped my ignorant and naive view of the family court system in this country.
The Tell-A-Vision sure gave me a vision.
I had been told to think that Divorce in the 1980's in America, was a case of equal justice before the law. That if as Husband or a Wife, you broke your marital vows, then you got your just desserts, and the unfairly victimized spouse got vindication and compensation. Of course it works like that! This is the land of the free and the home of the brave! We have the greatest country on the face of the Earth! Our legal system is the envy of the world! Democracy and checks and balances ensures that courts will impartially render justice without regards to race, religion, sexual orientation or gender!
All through my teens and early 20's, this was my view of marriage and divorce and the family
If someone I knew had parents who divorced, it HAD to be because one or the other did something dastardly and the other spouse righteously received justice in the court of law.
Then I experienced a real up close and personal insight into how Divorce REALLY works in our Brave New World Order when close friends and families went through the meat grinder.
According Winston Smith's entry on No Fault Divorce over at the Ministry of Truth:
No-fault divorce statutes were first enacted in 1969 in California; South Dakota was the last state to allow no-fault divorce, in 1985.
In other words,
I had no concept whatsoever about what No-Fault divorce really meant...until I saw my ex-Aunt run off with a motorcycle thug, leaving the kids with my uncle....AND STILL she got custody, child support, alimony when the Divorce was finalized two years later.
Wait a minute?
Shouldn't the Hawaii family court's equivalent to Judge Keene, look at the facts of the case and easily see that my ex-Aunt broke her marital vows, had an affair and abandoned her family....yet she got to unilaterally end her marriage and get cash, prizes and custody?
This is where my Uncle explained to me what "No-Fault" divorce was....or at least how his attorney explained it to him. If the man does something, it can and will be used against him in a kangaroo court of the family destroying arm of the law. If the woman does something...why, it's NO FAULT DIVORCE!
Prior to that, I really did believe the portrayal of Divorce Court TV was really how Divorces worked in this country. I had no idea Divorce Court TV in the 80's was a television show about At-Fault Divorce. But it only began it's daily syndicated Network Tell-A-Vision run after No-Fault Divorce became the standard M.O. in all 50 States.
I now believe Divorce Court TV was deliberate, subversive PROGRAMMING designed to indoctrinate men into thinking that there was nothing to fear from the Divorce Court system if they were not abusive cheaters, and just hard working husbands who did their duty and provided for their families. Besides, all the billable hours of the attorneys and expert witnesses, and the salaries of the court employees all depend on enough men getting married first, so that they can then pay for their services when they get divorced....
|Divorce? What, me worry? If she cheats, |
Judge Keene will make sure she gets what deserves!
* Ever since Wikipedia's Editors saw fit to erase the page for Thomas Ball's family court protest by self-immolation, I have resolved to no longer link them in blogging or commentary.