Ethics & Religion
For the first time in decades, a divorce
order was reversed last week.
The Texas Appeals Court concluded, "The judgement of the trial court is
reversed" and ordered a new trial. This was a victory for attorney David
Moody, one of a handful of lawyers fighting to preserve marriage, on
behalf of his client, Doak Runberg.
This is a stunning development. Since "No-Fault Divorce" or unilateral
divorce became the norm in the 1970s, those who file for divorce always
win. Divorce law is a scandal. There is no "due process" in divorce
cases that is supposedly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
There have been 38 million divorces granted since 1970. Lawyers are
hired by both sides. Some argue that the divorce should be granted,
usually on grounds of "irreconcilable differences." Other attorneys are
hired by defendants who opposes a divorce, arguing their differences ARE
How many cases have been won by the defendant? NONE until this case. The
defendant in a divorce case ALWAYS loses.
How can that be justice?
Thirty-five million innocent children experienced their parents divorce.
While many do well, children of divorce are three times as likely as
those from intact homes to be expelled from school or to have a baby as
an unwed teenager and are ten times as apt to live in poverty.
Yet according to a recent poll by George Barna, 39 percent of all
Protestants have divorced vs. only 38 percent of atheists/agnostics and
35 percent of "born again" Americans. (Only Catholics divorce at a lower
rate of 25 percent.)
Moody notes that no-fault divorce was begun by Russian Communists who
wanted to destroy the family because traditional values are transmitted
through families. He wrote an article for the Lubbock, TX newspaper
saying that divorce lawyers have a conflict of interest. In 55 percent
of their cases, they take the plaintiff's side who files for divorce,
and in 45 percent of the cases, they represent defendants who don't want
By contrast, in health care, attorneys work for one side OR the other.
Some represent insurance companies and are loyal to the defense side.
Others (like John Edwards) represent plaintiffs and are paid on a
contingency basis when they win cases. But if a defense attorney took a
case of someone injured in an accident, he would be fired by insurance
companies as untrustworthy.
Doak Runberg read Moody's article and hired him to fight a divorce filed
by his wife, Lisa Ann Runberg, on March 20, 2003.
Moody took a Biblical stand to seek "peace first, before you go to war."
He wrote her attorney, Douglas Woodburn, "This precious family has five
kids. What we ought to do is work together to reconcile this marriage.
Let's keep our legal fees down as much as possible. I am charging only
$50 an hour," when he usually charges $150.
Woodburn, who earns $250 an hour, had no interest in peace. Six days
later Woodburn had Doak and Lisa Ann appear before a judge and Doak
agreed to a temporary order to give $2,500 a month in child support and
$500 a month in spousal support plus insurance and health care for the
Texas allows a divorce to be granted in 60 days, if it is uncontested On
May 22, 2003 Woodburn got the court to hold a secret trial, which
granted the divorce in a "default judgment" against Doak. At the time of
trial, Doak had not filed an answer. However, he was not given notice of
the trial, and did not appear at it.
On June 20, Doak asked for a new trial, since he had been uninformed
about the trial. That was denied by the court six days later without a
hearing. With Moody's help, he appealed on grounds that since he had
"appeared" in the case agreeing to the temporary order, the court should
have informed him of the May 22 trial. "His right to due process of law
was violated," Moody argued.
Appeals Chief Justice Phil Johnson concurred, that the "trial court
abused its discretion in failing to grant a new trial because Doak's
failure to attend the final hearing could not have been
intentional...The judgment of divorce is reversed..."
Lisa Ann remarried last September, so the divorce will probably be
However, the case demonstrates divorce defendants DO have the right to
due process of law. Those who want to save a marriage should ask
prospective attorneys, "What side are you on?" If they take cases from
both sides, ignore them and hire an attorney like Moody
(firstname.lastname@example.org) who fights exclusively for defendants.
Copyright 2005 Michael J. McManus
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