One evening I was meeting with a new client; a woman who was recounting the stormy relationship between her husband and herself. The meeting was in my second floor office. All of a sudden there was a police officer standing at my office door asking: Is everything alright? Stunned, my client and I looked at him and I asked why he was there. He told us that a neighbor reported seeing a man climbing up the outside of my office building toward my lighted office window. The headlights from the neighbor’s car as he drove into the parking lot had scared off the man. The building has a brick exterior with architectural corners that would allow someone who was nimble and strong to climb up the wall to the second floor.
While the man was never caught we concluded that this guy was the husband of my client who apparently followed her to my office and wanted to see what was going on. From that night forward he became known in my office as Spiderman.
Over the weeks and months that followed my client reported that despite their separation, Spiderman was not ready to end their marriage. My client shared with me details of angry verbal battles between them. I knew my client well enough by now to know that she could hold her own in this regard. Fortunately, they had no children.
In 1980, years before I worked on the Spiderman divorce, Pennsylvania had enacted a no-fault divorce law. Under the law, if one spouse did not consent then the couple would need to be separated for two years before either could obtain a no-fault divorce without the consent of the other. My client and her husband were now living apart so the clock was ticking.
Prior to 1980, a spouse petitioning for a divorce would have to prove the other was guilty of marital misconduct while the Petitioner was “innocent and injured.” My experiences dealing with fault-based divorces taught me that many married people seeking divorce were injured but few were completely innocent. The old fault system forced many married couples who wanted to be divorced to conspire and lie to the court about who did and did not commit misconduct. People were also forced to share with their lawyers and the court all of the ugly details of their married life. Prior to 1980 the ratio of women to men practicing law was small. This forced most women seeking divorce to share with their male attorneys some very intimate and painful stories. Our system was adding insult and humiliation to the injuries these women had already endured.
Eventually, my client and her husband agreed and the no-fault divorce was finalized. I didn’t have any contact with this client for several years after the divorce was finalized. When I saw her again she told me that she and her ex-husband had resumed their relationship, had a child and remarried. Relationships are complicated and maybe more so when one party has the other climbing the walls.