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PAY ATTENTION IN COURT, AND DON’T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED

Two recent decisions of the Court of Appeals involve cases where a man was served with a divorce complaint but did not show up for the final hearing and had judgments rendered against them. In both cases, there seemed to be very valid reasons why the man had failed to appear, but in both cases, the rulings were upheld. In Curtis v. Curtis, No. 2009-CA-01644-COA (Decided March 29, 2011), Henry Curtis was represented by an attorney in a contested divorce proceeding. During the pendency of the case, Henry’s lawyer was disbarred. Henry did not hire another lawyer to immediately assume responsibility. The other side set the case for trial and the clerk mailed notice of the trial to Henry. Henry didn’t appear. He argued that he should be given slack because his lawyer was disbarred. The Court of Appeals said “no” and held that the mailing of the notice to Henry was sufficient notice.

In Simmons v. Simmons, No. 2010–CA-00205–COA (Decided March 29, 2011), Betty filed a suit against Joey seeking a divorce. Joey did not answer the lawsuit. Joey and Betty continued to live together as husband and wife. One might surmise that Betty told Joey not to worry about the lawsuit, she wasn’t going forward with the divorce. But, she did. And, after she obtained the divorce, she and Joey continued to live together as though nothing had happened. She even testified in another court hearing that she and Joey were married. Joey sought to have the divorce over turned for lack of notice, but the Court of Appeals said “no.”

Bottom line: when lawsuits are involved, you can’t take chances and you can’t let your guard down for even a minute.