At long last, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries are divorced! At a hearing on Friday, April 19, 2013, Kim’s attorney presented a written agreement to the Court, which was accepted. Kris Humphries did not appear, but Kim was sworn in and questioned by the judge. So how was this able to happen without Kris Humphries being present?
First of all, because the parties had an agreement, Kris’ appearance likely was unnecessary, especially since his attorney appeared for him. And although it may sound lopsided, the questions asked of Kim only need to be answered by her. This process is officially called “voir dire.”
Most family law litigants will find themselves being sworn in at one time or another. The judge’s clerk asks the parties to stand and raise their right hand as they are asked if they swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. A verbal answer such as “yes” or “I do” is required – no nodding or “uh huh-ing” is allowed.
Assuming that there is an agreement, after being sworn in, either each party’s attorney or the judge will ask a number of procedural questions. Generally speaking, the questions run along the lines of making sure that each party understands the agreement, had enough time to think about the agreement, desires to make the agreement a formal Court Order, and has no questions about the agreement. Each party must answer these questions out loud, and only after the judge is convinced that each party voluntarily and knowingly entered in to the agreement will accept it and make the agreement into an order.
If the agreement also terminates the marriage itself, that leads to a second series of questions. We call them the “jurisdictional facts.” In order to obtain a divorce in California, there has to be a date the marriage started and a date the marriage ended (usually called the date of separation). Additionally, at least one of the parties needs to have been a resident of California for at least six months prior to filing for divorce, and a resident of the county of filing for at least three months prior to the filing. The Court has to find that all of these basic requirements have been met, and in Court, one of the parties has to testify to these facts. In the Kardashian/Humphries divorce, Kim happened to be the one doing the testimony.
In California, there are two grounds for divorce: irreconcilable differences and incurable insanity. Like nearly all divorces in California, Kim and Kris fall under the category of irreconcilable differences. Basically, their marriage got to the point where they were unable to stay together any longer. It’s not about fault or blame – someone or both of them wanted out. Kim was likely asked if irreconcilable differences had arisen between her and Kris and whether those differences had led to the irremediable breakdown of her marriage. It is reported that the judge also asked Kim if counseling or any other assistance would help to put their marriage back together, which is also a routine question. Only one of the parties needed to answer these questions, since California is a state where only one person needs to want a divorce in order to obtain it.
And with those few questions, the case is over and the trial vacated as long as they sign the final documents. Let’s hope it’s smooth sailing for both of them from here on out!