According to a 1992 Boston Globe article, the Rantoul divorce was “a divorce tragedy probably never before equalled in the history of Massachusetts divorce courts.” Their divorce battle lasted three years and in the end no divorce was granted.
Lois initiated the divorce action. She claimed her husband, Edward had an insatiable sexual appetite and wanted to engage in oral, anal and manual sex. She considered these things to be deviant and wanted no part of it. She claimed that her husband was both sexually and emotionally abusive and that this conduct had caused her health to fail. To say that Lois had health problems is an understatement. She had been inflicted with typhoid, scarlet fever, measles, chicken pox, colitis and heart trouble. These maladies had weakened her immune system and caused her to become unstable. She claimed that when she denied him sex, Edward became verbally abusive and that his outbursts caused her condition to deteriorate. A doctor at the trial testified that he considered hospitalizing Lois at one point while she was recuperating from an abortion because Edward’s abusive conduct was threatening her life.
Lois also claimed that it was her desire to pursue intellectual interests and charitable work that turned him sour on their marriage. She claimed that he would not allow her to read in his presence and he would become upset when she did work for the Children’s Aid Society.
Edward claimed that Lois was having an affair and that it was not his conduct but her desire to be with her lover that prompted her to file for divorce. She claimed that her relationship with the other man was purely intellectual and that she was only attracted to his mind.
Lois’ doctor testified that her relationship with the other man was necessary to her treatment because it was intellectually stimulating. Lois called another doctor to testify as a “sex expert.” His basic testimony proffered the theory that if a man and woman were not sexual equals, the party who is being forced to be subservient is justified in seeking satisfaction from someone else. (I wonder how much that opinion cost Lois.)
The judge awarded Lois and Edward joint custody of their children but refused to grant the divorce. They remained living apart, the kids lived with him six months and with Lois six months.
Obviously, the court did not believe Lois had committed adultery, which under the law in place at the time, would have been grounds for granting the divorce. The court’s refusal to grant the parties a divorce did not end their dispute. Edward later petitioned the court for full custody. He claimed Lois had not kept her promise to terminate her relationship with her male companion. He also called on one of Lois’ nurses to testify that Lois had joined a “free love” society and no longer believed in monogamous relationships.
Lois called another doctor to testify that maintaining her relationship with her companion was necessary to her good health. This obviously was not true. Lois’ companion died two months later and she lived without him for many years. Nevertheless, the judge denied Edward’s request for full custody. Edward and Lois remained separated but married until their death.
Under current North Carolina, there is no requirement that you file for divorce after being separated. You are free to remain separated for as long as you choose. While there are sound reasons why it makes sense to file for divorce as soon as you meet the one-year separation requirement, there may also be sound reasons (usually related to finances) why it would make sense to remain separated but married.
Excerpt from Divorces from Hell Copyright (c) 1995 by Jacqueline D. Stanley
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