#259 – The Marital Labyrinth

At yesterday’s monthly bar luncheon, a few of us informally competed with stories about our strangest cases. I won first prize! 

Not long after my admission to the Georgia Bar, a man sought my help in a “family matter.” I expected something unusual from the outset, because he presented the facts as if they’d happened to his friend. He explained that this “friend” had married a stunning woman. Though she loved him, she longed for motherhood even more. Before agreeing to marry, she elicited his sworn promise to give her children, “one way or the other.” He loved his intended, greatly, but he positively hated kids. Against his vow, he visited a doctor and obtained a vasectomy. The year following their wedding consequently brought sexual bliss to him and frustrated barrenness to her.

This “friend” had revealed the vasectomy solely to his best bosom buddy, and only after said buddy swore to keep his lips sealed. As promised, the man told no one, except of course his own loyal wife — and only after swearing her to secrecy too. She would’ve kept the knowledge to herself, if a) her husband hadn’t run off with his secretary and b) the unwitting, frustrated wife of Mr. secret vasectomy hadn’t commiserated with her, saying: “At least God blessed you with two children during your marriage. He hasn’t seen fit to give us any yet!”

All thoughts of secrecy forgotten, the divorcing woman had replied: “I doubt God had anything to do with it, unless he’s branched out into the vasectomy business!”

I’d interrupted my client to state the obvious: “So, having learned about the procedure, your ‘friend’s’ wife is suing for divorce.”

Not so, my client corrected. Rather than divorce her husband, or even confront him on his duplicity, the thwarted mother opted to enforce the ‘or other’ part of his vow. She approached her male next door neighbor and asked whether, with his wife’s permission, he’d be willing to impregnate her. Several enjoyable attempts, plus nine months later, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

Again I interrupted: “Got it! Your ‘friend’ knows he can’t be the father and wants to divorce his cheating wife.”

Wrong again. As my client went on to explain, when the wife conceived, she belatedly reminded her husband of his vow and thanked him for fulfilling it. By tacit agreement, she didn’t mention the vasectomy and he didn’t ask how she’d achieved the miracle. The pair remained married and simply pretended husband and father were one and the same. They might’ve continued pretending forever, if the wife hadn’t caught her husband engaging in an extramarital affair, shortly after her child turned four. Her resulting cry of “how could you cheat on me?” apparently hit a nerve, and both of their long-ignored secrets spilled out in the ensuing row.

Once more, I interrupted: “I give up. Who’s suing for divorce, you or your wife?”

My client looked confused. “How’d you know I’m getting a divorce?”

I answered: “Well, you’re obviously the ‘friend,’ and at this point at least one of you must want out.”

He shook his head: “I’m not the “friend;” I’m the neighbor. You see, I didn’t actually ask my wife if I could father another woman’s child. The Mrs. and I were sitting in our living room a few weeks ago when my friend’s son came over and asked if I’m his real dad, like his mom says. Now, my wife wants a divorce!”

A lawyer never wants the facts of a case to be this twisted.

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