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More Work Needed To Prevent Violent Divorces



By Attorney Henry S. Gornbein

I have seen a rise in domestic violence regarding divorce lately. Is it due to the economy? Is it due to the terrible stress caused by divorce? Is it due to the fact that many people suffer from various forms of mental illness that often go undetected until there is a trigger point such as a divorce? Perhaps it is all the above.

A tragic situation happened too close to home. My grandchildren live in a house in a suburb where tragedy recently struck three doors away. A divorce was final on September 4th, the husband was being sued for some financial issues and apparently was distraught. September 10th was the day he was to vacate the marital home as part of the divorce judgment. Instead of vacating, early in the morning of September 10th, shots were fired and the police were called.

A West Bloomfield Township Police, Michigan police officer walked in thinking he was going to help diffuse the domestic situation. Over the years, I have talked on numerous occasions to law enforcement officials who will tell me that family matters are among the most volatile and dangerous. Sadly, for the first time in the history of West Bloomfield Township, the officer, who was 39 years of age, married with four children, was shot and killed. The subdivision was cleared. The roads were closed. The local school buses were cancelled. There was a stand-off where the heavily armed former husband was in the house firing and holding off the police. Ultimately, the house was broken in to and he was found dead in a bedroom surrounded by knives, guns, and other weapons. This was 19 hours after the situation began. He had shot himself.

Lately, the news headlines are filled with these frequent tragedies. As a specialist in family law, what can attorneys do? What can therapists do? Sadly, in our society, there are fewer and fewer safety nets for people in need of mental health services. Over the years, many mental health institutions have closed, and services that once were available, are no longer available.

What are the answers? This is a case that hit very close to home and it happened three houses away from my grandchildren. I have found the need for a balancing act between the need to protect victims of domestic abuse and the need to make sure that there are not false accusations. There is a delicate balancing act that goes on every day. Sometimes people are wrongfully charged. Sometimes people who should be charged, are not. It is a dilemma that everyone dealing with divorce must face on a daily basis. This includes attorneys, therapists, police, prosecutors, and judges. It would be nice if there were simple answers but sadly there are not. Everything must be handled on a case by case basis and too often there are tragedies ending in death.

These are some of my thoughts. What are yours?

Henry Gornbein is a family law attorney at Henry S. Gornbein PLLC in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

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