#FreeDivorce! Wouldn’t it be great if we could simply get divorced by signing the judge’s name to our divorce decree? What a tumultuous burden would be lifted off our shoulders!
No more haggling about custody issues or child support….. Who gets the dog, the car, the beach house? Say nothing about the outrageous legal bill! But instead, couples tear each other apart through weeks, months and sometimes years of turmoil to quash their marriage vows and head their separate ways.
How to divorce on the cheap?
According to a divorce judge, James J. Panchik in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, illegally signing his signature to forge a divorce decree seems to be a trivial matter, not worth his time. When a detective called to inform him, he didn’t even respond.
When I called to get his comment, and made clear that I’m a blogger and interested in writing this story, he didn’t respond either. His secretary called me back and asked, a second time, “What agency are you with?” I explained again, “I’m an author and blogger, and I intend to post about this issue.” Still, several weeks later, no response.
How insidious was this ruse?
The offender pretended to be single and went to couples counseling over several months with his victim (we’ll call Taylor) to work on and solidify the relationship. He not only fooled the victim, but their therapist as well. He continued his ruse for over five years.
This comic book artist-turned-con artist seemed to have downloaded a blank divorce decree from the internet and used his talents to forge the needed signature. Taylor contacted the FBI to file a report because the document was transmitted by email over state lines. It’s been several months since the filing…. No action was taken.
Searching for recourse
Taylor called to talk with the judge. The call was intercepted by his secretary. She returned the call after speaking with “Hizoner” and reported that he had “no interest in the matter.” So after 10+ years of receiving a handsome income – paid by the tax payers of PA – Judge Panchik turned a blind eye to protecting them from the misuse of the very office they’d entrusted to him.
The secretary referred the victim to the PA DA’s office, who in turn referred it to the detective. The detective has since said the matter is out of her hands because she has tried to contact the judge to no avail. The judge is doing nothing.
The Pennsylvaia Rules of Judicial Conduct have this to say about how judges should behave:
“The rules contained in this Code necessarily require judges, individually and collectively, to treat and honor the judicial office as a public trust, striving to preserve and enhance legitimacy and confidence in the legal system.”
Not only does a divorce decree settle marital assets, it provides protection for the public against adulterers. Regardless that adultery is no longer punished as a criminal act as Nathaniel Hawthorne elegantly depicted in The Scarlet Letter, unwittingly becoming embroiled in an adulterous affair could be extremely debilitating to the victim. And misrepresenting marital status, by what appears to be a legal document, is truly a fraud in fact. Committing a fraud in fact to elicit sex is not seduction, it’s sexual assault, whether or not the penal code in any state currently says so.
For those who constantly accuse me of being a “feminazi” and only pursuing sexual assault by fraud cases when females complain, Taylor is a strong, resilient and intelligent MAN!
Not an isolated incident
A victim in Texas reported a similar case in which she specifically told her suitor, a man named Keith, that she wanted nothing to do with him if he was married. Like the PA case, Keith produced a divorce decree, but he showed her a hard copy rather than transmitting the forgery through cyber space.
She went to the police complaining that Keith had engaged her in sex under the false representation that he was divorced. Texas Penal Code states that consent is not effective “when induced by force, threat or fraud.” But a very polite police sergeant informed her that the Texas consent provision only applies in theft, not in sexual assault. She spoke to additional attorneys, and sought emotional support from a rape center. They refused to provide help or even validate the harm she’d been dealt.
In order to recover her dignity and come to grips with her sense of defilement, she sought private therapy. She’s filed a civil action to recover the costs she’s incurred in the effort to put her life back on track. Her case is currently pending in Dallas.
Divorce documents are for sale on the internet.
Packages can easily be obtained by couples who prefer the DIY termination of their marriage. But they’re also readily available for con artists, with or without talent, who have no scruples about undermining your sexual autonomy. To them, your “No” means, “Find a sneaky way to fool me.'”
If someone shows you a divorce decree… BEWARE! Note the state and county issuing the divorce decree. All divorce decrees are public record. Divorce documents give you abundant information about why the marriage ended, including claims of abuse. Never take what the person tells you or shows you at face value. Conduct research through the court records. and if the date on the decree is a weekend or holiday, it’s surely a forgery.
What’s the cure?
Unless and until our laws correctly reflect that force, duress and deception are all tools that sexual predators use to sexually exploit you, this callous disregard for people’s sexual autonomy will continue unabated.
Here’s what YOU can do:
- Call your legislators. Say #FGKIA! Sign it into law today! Freely Given, Knowledgeable and Informed Agreement!
- Only elect legislators who pledge to enact consent-based #FGKIA laws to conquer sexual assault!
- Watch this TEDx Talk and share it with everyone you know!
- DONATE to Consent Awareness Network! Help us continue the fight for CONSENT laws across the US and around the world!