Thursday, December 14, 2017
Human Interest

Opening Lines: Divorce shatters yet another illusion

Divorce bores me. I'll cop immediately to a deep personal bias here brought on by too many family splits with too many decades of low-level emotional radioactivity. But even when the stories involve bold-faced names and gobs of money, they have never managed to overcome my sense that divorces generally are pretty pedestrian affairs.

I suspect that I'm not alone in my impatience. Once divorce was a taboo society politely avoided. Now, we seem to talk about it constantly. Who among us hasn't nodded sympathetically at their friends' independent recitations of wrong and woe? She cheated; he's cheap. At the end all you know is that someone — her or him, and with them a branch of mutual friends — is about to disappear and the holiday card list will need trimming.

Quite frankly, over the years I've stiff-armed more than a few entreaties from aggrieved husbands to take up their cause. I could never muster the sympathy to wade into their mess, much less referee it. And where was the news value in something so commonplace?

By now you may be wondering why I put a divorce story on the cover of this issue. I think the answer has as much to do with the writer, Leonora LaPeter Anton, as it does with me.

Many, many months ago, when Leonora and I first began working together, she told me that one of the stories she had on her list concerned the divorce of a Clearwater couple. Leonora, because she has the capacity to stare without flinching at the same kind of uncomfortable situations that make me recoil, had been following the case for more than a year already.

The couple was not well known and the legal issues were not unique — perhaps the only two reasons that an editor might normally have decided to devote so much reporting time to a case. But Leonora convinced me that what she had witnessed in hearing after hearing offered its own compelling narrative.

By sticking it out until the end — logging more than three years of on-and-off reporting — Leonora earned the right to assess the performance of a court system that functions exactly as it is designed to do. And it's a complete disaster. I'll let you decide for yourself why that is.

I maintain that divorces — even the so-called good ones — are awful affairs. But Leonora's story has changed my mind about one thing:

They're far from boring.

Bill Duryea can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8770.

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