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Do-it-yourself divorce papers land councilman behind bars

Do-it-yourself divorce papers land councilman behind bars

These days, the do-it-yourself (DIY) attitude seems to be taking over all aspects of life — including the legal world.

While there are a few divorce cases that can be handled pro se, or without legal representation, even those have to have some involvement from the court.

In other words, you can’t just forge your divorce papers and falsify the signatures of various court officials and assume that no one will ever be the wiser — even if you only intend to fool your overseas mistress.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what a Michigan city councilman decided to do when his London mistress wanted to end their long-distance romance.

The enterprising DIY’er used a less-than-sophisticated forgery technique: cut and paste, using old court documents. He then forged a probate court judge’s signature and that of several other officials before sending his mistress a photo of his work.

Apparently, his homemade divorce kit wasn’t enough to convince the savvy mistress of anything — so she called his wife. His wife, in turn, called the police.

Perhaps to his surprise, the councilman found out that even though he had intended his forged documents to be used for private purposes, what he’d done was illegal. It fell under the category of impersonating a public official, which could have netted him a one-year jail sentence and a $1,000 fine if prosecutors hadn’t decided to be lenient.

For whatever reason, the councilman was allowed to plead to a lesser charge of larceny by false pretenses and sentenced to a little over 90 days in jail. The news didn’t report whether or not his wife has decided to proceed with an actual, legitimate divorce now that her husband’s affair and scam has been exposed — although that would hardly be a surprising turn of events.

If you’re contemplating a divorce, talk to an attorney for advice before you make any decisions about how to handle the process. While most wrong moves won’t end as spectacularly badly as the councilman’s, a wrong decision during your divorce can have long-lasting consequences for you financially and emotionally.

Source: Record Eagle, “International affair lands councilman in jail,” Mark Johnson, May 26, 2017

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