Stories you can use to start conversation or to add interest to speeches or presentations

Resources for Speakers - Anecdotes About Divorce

Talking About Divorce

50 years ago, when the divorce rate was a quarter of today's, the reason for split was usually serious - either infidelity or violence. Today much more about personal growth and emotions - marriage increasingly about companionship

Before Legal Divorce

“In early-nineteenth-century England, a good way to get rid of your husband was arsenic,” Joan Acocella writes, in a piece called “Murder by Poison.” Husband-poisoning, she finds, was so popular that, in 1851, the House of Lords contemplated a law forbidding the sale of arsenic to women; the eventual decline in arsenic poisoning is attributable, in part, to the legalization of divorce. Marriage, in other words, is a complicated business.

The People


"I once worked with an attorney who was a criminal lawyer and a divorce lawyer," Sexton says. "He said when he did criminal law, he saw bad people at their best, and when he did divorce law, he saw good people at their worst. I think there's a lot of truth to that . . . In divorce, it's incredibly common to see people destroy their own case, their own children and their own finances in an effort to destroy the other person."


Australian software program Family Winner to help divorcing couples split up assets. Each party gets limited number of points which thay have to allocate to items they most value. Using this they tend to wind up with 70-80% of things they really want rather than the 50-50% with traditional haggling (though of course some divorcing couples complicate things because they want more to punish than to be fair)

Br case where husband argued that wife had been living with another man for 10 years so he shd support her. But judge agreed with wife who said she wanted financial independence rather than having to depend on new partner.

The old-fashioned way

In parts of Panama, some men still fight for access to women with the ferocity of rutting male elks. The indigenous Ngabe people mostly keep to themselves in rural areas but have surfaced in towns like Volcan, near the Costa Rican border, where in December a reporter witnessed two men fist-fighting to bloody exhaustion on the street in a typical "Mi Lucha" ("my struggle"), with the loser's wife following the winner home. As the custom loses its cachet, only about a third of the time does the wife now comply, according to the website Narratively. (Bonus: It's an often-easy "divorce" for the Ngabe--for a fed-up wife to taunt her husband into a losing fight, or for a fed-up husband to pick a fight and take a dive.)

Bootlegger George Remus had one of the worst breakups in history. His wife, owning all his assets, divorced him, tried to have him deported, hired a hitman to kill him, and left him with $100 from a Multi-Million dollar empire.

Not Bitter At All

After they divorced, Eagles' guitarist Glenn Frey often dedicated the song Lyin' Eyes to his first wife, whom he called the Plaintiff.


"We have a schizophrenic culture about marriage in this country," says Johns Hopkins professor Andrew Cherlin, who wrote the book, "The Marriage-Go-Round," which explores the American habit of marriage "churning" - people divorcing and remarrying quickly. "We value marriage, but we also value thinking about ourselves - what makes us happy, what makes us most fulfilled. We think if we are not happy we have the right to end our relationships. And when we see the clash, we're surprised by it."


Study of divorce among doctors who graduated from John Hopkins University 1948-64 found that overall 32% had divorced. Pediatricians had lowest rate (22%); psychiatrists were highest with 51%. Moral: don't go to psychotherapist with marital problems - pretend you're a kid and go to pediatrician

Catholic Church and Divorce

Billy Connolly has blamed the Catholic church's opposition to divorce for his childhood abuse, claiming that the collapse of his parents' marriage turned his father into a sexually frustrated paedophile. The comedian, who was sexually abused from the age of 10, said that his father did not seek a divorce after his mother walked out because he was wracked by Catholic guilt. Connolly said his father, who believed in the sanctity of marriage, turned his sexual attentions to his son instead.

Jewish Law and Divorce

Jewish law permits divorce only by mutual consent. 1950 Israeli woman applied for divorce (her husband was always moaning that she hadn't given him any sons), but husband refused. Eventually he was jailed in 1962 as last resort. He stayed there until he died, in 1994, still adamant

Russian Roulette Divorce

In 2007 Andrei Karpov from Murmansk, Russia bet his wife in a poker game and lost. His enraged wife subsequently divorced him and married the winner, Sergey Brodov.

Unreasonable Behaviour and Divorce

England requires that couples prove adultery or abandonment or "unreasonable behavior," which leads to sometimes-epic weirdness, according to an April New York Times dispatch from London. For instance, one woman's petition blamed her husband's insistence that she speak, and dress, only as a Klingonite. Other examples of "unreasonable" behavior (gathered by the Times of London): a husband objecting to the "malicious" preparation of his most hated dish (tuna casserole), a spouse's noncommunication for the last 15 years (except by leaving Post-It Notes), a spouse's too-rapid TV channel-changing, a husband's distorting the fit of his wife's best outfits by frequently wearing them, and one's insistence that a pet tarantula reside in a glass case beside the marital bed.

Lawyers and Divorce

(LT obit for Samuel Barry Sylvester) One of his divorce clients was Diana Dors. He was invited to one of her weddings and after the ceremony she whispered to him, "You'll get me out of this when it all goes wrong, won’t you?". It did, and he did.


"He thought he had kept his ex-wife out of his Facebook group, but she had taken on the identity of a beautiful woman to get befriended and knew all about it."

Jail and Divorce

H. Beatty Chadwick, 72, is approaching his 14th consecutive year behind bars, though he has not been charged with a crime. In a 1995 divorce hearing, a judge thought Chadwick was lying about $2.5 million in assets (his wife said he was hiding them; he said he lost them in a business deal) and locked him up for contempt of court, and he has been there ever since. Chadwick has never wavered in his story, and after an independent retired judge investigated in 2004 and failed to find any money, Chadwick's lawyer compared the "missing" money to Saddam Hussein's "missing" weapons of mass destruction (and also pointed to some Pennsylvania murderers who do less time than Chadwick has).

Old Age Divorce

In 2008, Bertie Wood and her husband Jessie, of Falmouth had decided to end their 36-year marriage, evidently at a point where they felt they needed a fresh start. Both were 97 years old at the time. Jessie has since died, and Bertie lives in a nursing home.

One Way To Divorce

An eccentric C19 American businessman (Timothy Dexter) started telling visitors that his wife had died (despite the fact that she was still very much alive) and that the woman who frequented the building was simply her ghost.

The 20-year New York marriage of Gabriel Villa, now 90, and Cristina Carta Villa, now 59, apparently had its happy moments, but as Cristina found out when things went bad recently, Gabriel had attempted to protect himself shortly after the wedding--by obtaining a Dominican Republic divorce and keeping it secret. Cristina found out only when she realized in a property accounting that her name was not on the deed to their Manhattan apartment. (She is challenging that divorce as improper even under Dominican law.)

Marital Property

A doctor is demanding his pound of flesh from his soon-to-be-former wife as part of their divorce. Richard Batista, a surgeon who split from his wife claiming that she had an affair, is asking that she now return the kidney that he gave her Doctors discovered that Mr Batista's kidneys were a 1-in-700,000 match, and in June 2001 he gladly donated one, allowing her to skip a waiting list of 6,748 people awaiting kidneys in New York State. Under US law, an organ donation is considered a gift, and organs cannot be bought and sold.
Legal experts said that Mr Batista had no prospect of getting his kidney back. "I've been in this business over 40 years and I've never heard of that," said Seymour J.Reisman, a divorce lawyer. "It's not marital property, not a marital asset you can put a price on."

Bad Habits Divorce

German woman divorced her husband after six months of sleepless nights due to his nocturnal cravings for crunchy celery

Renovation and Divorce

All jokes abt couples who renovate their homes and then divorce, but it's not the upheaval of construction that causes people to part, but rather the prior tensions that caused them to make one last show of solidarity before admitting defeat. (Warm Hearts and Cold Cash by Marcia Millman)


When Hermilo Mendez, 28, found himself behind bars on a minor charge early 2002 in Dilley, Tex., he realized that he finally had time to work on his long-desired divorce and wrote the county clerk in San Antonio to start the paperwork. First, though, he needed the clerk's help, in that he could not remember his wife's name. The couple had married in 1992 after a one-week courtship, and she cleared out shortly afterward. The clerk researched it and informed Mendez that he had been joined in holy matrimony with "Violeta Sanchez Juarez" and that she had apparently long ago returned to Mexico.

Some Lighter Conversation Starters

"I'm not as positive about relationships as I used to be. These days, when I meet someone, I ask myself, "Is this the woman I want my kids to spend every other week with?"

Divorced Barbie - comes with all Ken's stuff

Never heard of a trial separation that didn't work

For a husband, it's easier to keep the wolf from the door than the wife from the wolf

It's impossible to stop adultery - can't even make it unpopular


Book Extracts on Divorce