Luckily, the world is filled with capable professionals whose skills and maturity can ease their way through life’s harder moments, like coming through a divorce and custody issue.
Unfortunately, divorce and custody matters can be so stressful and emotional that even the best training in the world can fly out the window and turn two adults into vicious bullies who not only won’t give an inch, but actively work to undermine and hurt the other.
That’s what happened in a recent divorce case in Putnam County, where a police officer squared off against his wife, who holds a master’s degree in psychology.
You’d think that two people who have spent years training to handle conflict and resolve highly charged situations peacefully would be well set to negotiate their way through a divorce, but for Westchester County police officer Karl Thimm, Jr., 43, and his estranged wife Lisa, 41, the divorce was anything but smooth.
And the effects stretched far beyond the courtroom, even landing Karl in jail for 15 days when the judge in their case found him in contempt.
Putnam County State Supreme Court Justice Victor Grossman is probably used to parties before him doing the absolute minimum when it comes to the orders he issues. After all, nobody likes being told they have to do something they don’t want to do.
In Karl’s case though, things spiraled way out of control, and multiple court orders were disobeyed in the divorce proceeding.
Early on, Lisa alleged in court that Karl had taken oxycodone in front of their children, prompting Grossman to order drug and alcohol testing to determine whether there was a substance abuse issue in play.
In two tests, Karl was positive for alcohol, but then he skipped out on a third ordered test, saying he had plans with his kids.
To be clear, this isn’t the way to win a custody fight, but it appears that Grossman considered the issue open, but by itself it wasn’t enough to raise his ire to the point of putting Karl in jail.
That came later.
The two parties had turned profoundly nasty toward each other, exchanging angry emails and texts that were impeding their ability to act rationally in regard to their case and their children.
Grossman ordered them to cool it, limiting their contact to no more than one email per day, and he specified that the only topic they could discuss in that email was their children. That order, to put it mildly, went unheeded.
Media reports on the case included excerpts from the brutal, expletive-filled texts that Karl sent over a five week period. “You may be the stupidest person I ever encountered… Holy crap… F— you… F— your family,” he said in one.
In another, he taunted, “I can’t wait till the kids tell you they want to stay at my house cuz you are living in a basement apartment, like a divorced woman loser… you f—— discrase (sic).”
Charmingly, he also insisted on his own parental fitness in another communication. “Good luck in life dummy, you will need it… also f— you if that was not clear lol… I don’t know to get this through your dented head… I’m the competent parent.”
Karl admitted that the messages were his, but said they were simply equivalent responses to harsh messages from Lisa, including one that ended with, “IS THAT CLEAR?”
Grossman rejected any equivalence, and after reading these texts, the judge had had enough with his orders being disobeyed.
He found Karl in contempt for ignoring both of his orders, writing of the missed drug and alcohol screening, “The Court can infer from his violation that the test would reveal alcohol and/or drugs in his system while he cared for the children.”
He didn’t single Karl out for criticism, though, saying that both parents “embarrassing behavior has set a horrible example” for the couple’s three children.
He continued, noting, “Anyone who has enjoyed the pitter patter of little feet has heard the footsteps of children grow to an age where tantrums and name-calling are but a phase that the children outgrow. Here, however, the childish tantrums have extended far into adulthood, as the parties continue to behave like children. Both have behaved like preschoolers. Unfortunately, the Court cannot send the parties to their room.”
But by sending Karl to jail for 15 days for disobeying the court orders, he created some career issues for the police officer.
Karl was already dealing with a menacing charge stemming from a 2013 incident in Manhattan, when he allegedly waved a gun at four men in a car after a verbal altercation with the driver.
Though Karl’s attorney appealed the contempt ruling right away, calling it “a giant error on the judge’s part,” the combined effect of a misdemeanor charge against him and a contempt of court finding forced the Westchester County Police Department to temporarily suspend him.
Police departments have to act very cautiously when it comes to their relationships with judges.
After all, if a department’s credibility is called into question, or the professionalism and veracity of its officers is not assured, then the cases that cops investigate and prosecutors take before judges become trickier affairs. While Karl was not caught lying, his disregard for the authority of the bench is not something his superiors could, or would, tolerate.
As this case shows, there can be consequences for bad behavior in a divorce that stretch far past the courtroom, and can even affect your career.
And because divorce and custody matters can become so personal, even people whose livelihoods depend on sound conflict resolution and the ability to de-escalate out of control situations can themselves become out of control, launching into conflicts that can never be resolved.
This is why it’s so important to work with an experienced divorce lawyer who can guide you through both the legal matter itself, as well as help you maintain perspective as it happens.
When your marriage in Queens is ending, get the best help around.
The attorneys at Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino are here for you.
Call 718-523-1111 today and talk to an experienced Queens divorce and child custody attorney for free.