Attorney at Law
555 Republic Drive, Suite 200
Plano, TX 75074
Civil/Family Law Practice in Dallas County and Collin County (Texas).
Their divorce had started off contested. Vernon and Joyce had been married for more than 20 years. There was real estate involved, and separate property, and retirement funds, and accusations of adultery, and depositions, and cash gifts from relatives, and experts who gave opinions as to the value of a business that the parties owned ... the two lawyers ended up doing more accounting work than legal work.
More than a year after the case was filed, it went to trial. The two lawyers dragged their voluminous files to the courthouse. They had drawn up charts and graphic exhibits. When the Judge called the case, both lawyers stood up and announced ready.
The Judge said, "You're number three on the docket. The two cases ahead of yours shouldn't take long. Why don't you try, one last time, to settle?"
The lawyers went out into the hallway (lawyers spend a great deal of time hanging around in the hallways of courthouses). They had already made every effort to settle, without success. "Bob, do you think there's any chance we can make an agreement?"
Bob shook his head. "No, but we've got nothing else to do while we're waiting. Let's see what happens."
The parties themselves were sitting at opposite ends of the hallway, angry, hostile, not wanting to speak to each other or even look at each other. Bob found his client. "The Judge wants us to make one final offer to the other side. What's the best we can do? How generous do you want to be?"
A funny thing happens when a case gets closer and closer to trial. Litigants who are stubborn tend to become more reasonable. They see the door of the courtroom swinging open, and they realize ... this is it! The Judge could rule against me! I might lose everything!
A few minutes later, Bob located the other lawyer. "Look, I can get Vernon to give her 75% of the business if she'll let him have the house and the 401k, but she has to take the IRS debt ..." He spelled out the offer.
The other lawyer nodded, making notes on a legal pad. "I'll talk to Joyce see what she says."
Fifteen minutes later, he was back. "Bob, I think she's interested, but she wants to SPLIT the IRS debt."
Bob went back to where Vernon was sitting. His client listened intently. "Well, okay, but she'll need to give me a little more time to pay my half of the IRS."
The lawyers bounced back and forth, carrying little messages to (and from) their clients, offers and counteroffers. And after two hours, they had the case settled. "Bob, let's all go back into the courtroom so that we'll be there when our case is called again. You grab Vernon and I'll get Joyce."
They all arrived at the door of the courtroom at the same time. Mom and Dad glared at each other.
The lawyers looked at each other. "So, Bob, we got it settled?"
"Yep, I think we do."
Vernon looked at his wife. "What about the yellow chainsaw?"
"It's mine, and you know it! It was given to me as a gift! It's in my garage, and I'm going to keep it."
Vernon's face turned red. "I bought it, and I'm the only one who's ever used it! You wouldn't even know how to start it! Why are you so mean-hearted?"
Joyce glared at him. "Why are YOU so mean-hearted?"
Vernon turned to his lawyer. "The deal's off! Let's have a trial." And he turned and walked away.
Joyce said, "Fine with me!" and walked off in the other direction.
The two lawyers just looked at each other wearily. Then Bob had an idea.
"Let's talk for a minute," he said.
The two lawyers sat down on a bench. "Let's try something. Go talk to Mom and find out everything you can about the chainsaw - what brand, what model, how old it is."
He came back a few minutes later. "It's a Black & Decker model 1400F. Yellow. About three years old. Has a little dent on the bottom where somebody dropped it."
Bob stood up. "Do me a favor. Go sit in the courtroom. If our case is called, tell the Judge we need a little more time, and we may be able to settle it. I have to make a phone call."
"What are you going to do?"
"Trust me," said Bob.
A few minutes later, Bob was down the hall dropping money into a pay phone. He called his own office. "Claire? I need a favor. Grab your checkbook and go down to Home Depot. Buy a Black & Decker chainsaw, model 1400F. Make sure it's YELLOW. If they don't have it in yellow, buy a can of yellow paint and a small paint brush. Bring it over to the courthouse; I'll be standing on the front steps. Hurry!"
When Claire arrived with the chainsaw, Bob quickly unboxed it. It was yellow. Claire watched with great curiosity as Bob held the machine up to shoulder level and dropped it onto the pavement. Twice. Then he opened the hood of his car, rubbed the palm of his hand over the greasy engine, and smeared the smut onto the chainsaw. He picked up a handful of dirt and carefully drizzled it onto the now-battered tool.
"Thanks, Claire. You can go back to the office. Remind me to reimburse you the $98.00. Someday I'll tell you why I did this."
Claire drove away, shaking her head. Bob carefully placed the chainsaw into the trunk of his car.
He washed his hands and hurried to the courtroom. The other lawyer was sitting in the gallery.
"Did they call our case?"
"No, Bob, they're still working on the one ahead of ours." He nodded toward the group of people clustered in front of the bench.
"Okay. Let's go out into the hallway where we can talk." Bob quickly told him about his scheme to avoid a needless trial. The other lawyer slowly grinned.
"Sure, Bob. I'm in. You go talk to Vernon, and I'll talk to Joyce."
Bob found Vernon in the same place he had been all morning. "Vernon, I want to show you something. Let's go out to my car."
When they arrived in the parking lot, Bob opened his trunk. Inside was the dirty, battered chainsaw. "Vernon ... Joyce's lawyer had a long talk with her, and persuaded her to give in. There's your chainsaw."
Vernon had actually used his chainsaw only twice, and hadn't seen it in months. He gazed at the scruffy-looking machine, believing it to be his own. "She ... gave in?" he said softly.
"Yes. And it wasn't easy for her. She gave in, on the condition that you never tell anybody, and never even mention it to her. Ever. It won't be listed in the divorce decree ... you'll just have a provision that you get to keep what's in your possession, and of course it'll be in your possession."
Vernon nodded slowly. "I understand." He took a deep breath and looked at his lawyer. "Let's get this thing over with. We have a settlement, as far as I'm concerned."
Back inside the courthouse, Joyce and her lawyer were having a serious talk.
"Joyce, Vernon's lawyer had a long talk with him, and persuaded him to give in. You can keep the chainsaw. It can stay right there in your garage, where it's always been."
Joyce looked down at the floor. "So ... he gave in?" she said softly.
"Yes. And it wasn't easy for him. He gave in ... on the condition that you never tell anybody, and never mention it, even to him. Ever. It won't be listed in the divorce decree ... you'll just have a provision that you keep what's in your possession."
She seemed satisfied. "Okay. Maybe Vernon's not so bad after all. Let's get this thing over with. We have a deal."
And so it was agreed. The final hearing lasted exactly ten minutes, and consisted of the lawyers stating for the record what the agreement was. Without specifically mentioning the chainsaw, of course.
And the lawyers had the rest of the afternoon to do with as they wished. It was worth every bit of $98.00.
The information on this website is not legal advice, and it may not be applicable to any specific set of facts ... especially your own personal situation. The perusal of this website does not establish an attorney-client relationship. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation, and I invite you to contact me; I welcome your calls and emails. Contacting me does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to me. I am an attorney licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas to practice law in all State courts and certain Federal courts, but I'm not board certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.