By now, I’m sure most of you have heard about what happened to Bobby Flay at his Hollywood Star celebration. For those who have not heard, Bobby Flay was graced with the presence of a jet with a “CHEATER” banner while laying down his Hollywood Star. We can only imagine how embarrassing that was for him. Yikes. Since he filed for divorce from his wife in April, most people are blaming Stephanie March- thinking she is the mastermind behind the act. Let’s assume she was for discussion purposes- is this a great strategic move by her attorneys, or a big mistake?
When you file for divorce in Dallas County, Collin County, or Denton County, your Original Petition for Divorce (the first pleading you file requesting a divorce) must have attached to it what the Court calls standing orders. These orders enjoin (or restrain) any party who has filed or served with the petition from committing certain acts.
The most common orders relate to the following:
1. No Disruption of the Children- The Court does not want either party to remove the children from either the county where the case is filed, or the state. The Court also wants parents to behave in front of their children- no talking about the litigation with the children, no hiding the children from the other parent, and no disruption of their regular daily lives (i.e. taking them out of school early).
2. Protection of Family Pets or Companion Animals- Many people wonder what will happen to their pets in case of divorce, luckily, most Courts protect animals in their standard Standing Orders so that one party cannot remove the pet(s) from the other.
3. Conduct of the Parties – Here is the big one which relates to the Bobby Flay story- Courts enjoin parties from using offensive language towards each other, threatening each other, harassing each other by telephone, causing bodily injury or threatening the other party with violence. We will come back to this one when we discuss the strategy behind the “Cheater” banner.
4. Preservation of Property and Use of Funds – The Court also enjoins parties from making any crazy purchases or withdrawals from their accounts (both separate and joint) outside of the norm. However, parties can spend money on their regular expenses (both business and personal) and their attorney’s fees.
5. Personal and Business Records – Courts enjoin parties from destroying evidence- both financial and personal which can be discoverable in a divorce suit.
6. Insurance- Finally, Court’s don’t allow you to alter or incur indebtedness on any insurance plans while the suit is pending.
When it comes to the Bobby Flay debacle, if his Law & Order spouse Stephanie March did in fact waive the banner- what would her consequences/advantages be in Court if they filed in Texas? Great question- obviously this has brought quite a bit of attention to Bobby Flay’s divorce filing. It just depends if Bobby is actually uncomfortable with this occurring. If this act, or something similar, would push Bobby towards settlement outside of what he was willing to offer, that would be a plus for Stephanie. Public acts such as this may help push Bobby towards finalizing the divorce in efforts to stop the public mutiny. BUT, if this would just enrage him, it would have the opposite effect…
In many counties in Texas, Bobby Flay could file what we call a Motion for Enforcement of the County Standing Orders. He could argue that this was a method of communicating with him in an offensive manner, which is a violation of the standing orders. He can say that the act was done with the intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment and embarrass him. In addition, a Court would probably have a big issue with such a public dissemination of a parent during a suit for divorce. These children would be exposed to their parents’ unruly behavior and it could backfire with their likeability in Court, especially if this case were to head to a jury trial. However, this is America, and we do have a little thing called freedom of speech, so that is the argument for Stephanie, hypothetically of course.
If you have been served with a petition for divorce, be very careful to follow the standing orders attached because a violation of them can hold you in contempt of Court. The standing orders are usually attached as an exhibit on the back of the petition, so be sure to read carefully.
If you have any more questions about standing orders or filing petitions in Texas, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.