HBO’s Divorce: Episode 8 – From Mollie’s Perspective
By Mollie Caplis
In Episode 8, after an evening out with the kids, Robert returns Tom and Lila to the house, along with a pet snake (ughhh!!). On his own, Robert decided to purchase this pet, along with a big tank, and park it in Frances’s newly designed living room, where Robert’s home office used to be. Understandably, Frances is none too pleased with her new house guest, as she had recently spent a great deal of time cleaning house, so to speak. The arrival of the snake quickly leads Frances to remind Robert that they need to co-parent and make joint decisions together. Aside from the snake, Frances is also quite bothered that Robert appears to be, well, a new Robert. Well dressed, in shape, and with a newfound spiritualism, Robert seems transformed and happy.
As snakes shed their skin through a process calling sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. Like a snake, is it possible that through the process of divorce, Robert is transforming into a new and improved person? Of course not!
For instance, Robert’s obsession with Frances’ former paramour, Julian, aka the Frenchman, is becoming rather worrisome. At first, his inappropriate texting could be chalked up to the rantings of an angry spouse, but now his behavior is rising to the level at which court intervention may be needed. Julian, a college professor, is completely rattled when Robert attends one of his classes and makes his presence known. When Julian attempts to scurry away after class, Robert chases him down. During this threatening and uncomfortable encounter, Robert intimidates Julian in a series of strange acts: (1) giving Julian a gun; (2) telling Julian that he (Robert) forgives him; and then (3) giving Julian a hug. Robert’s actions raise serious legal concerns. Under Maryland law, Julian may be entitled to a peace order against Robert. To be entitled to such relief, certain prohibited acts must be found to have occurred, such as an act that places someone in fear of imminent serious bodily harm, false imprisonment, harassment, stalking, or trespass. If a Maryland judge finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Robert committed, and is likely to commit in the future, such prohibited acts against Julian, a court may issue a final peace order to protect Julian. A final peace order is effective for a period not to exceed six months and may include such relief as ordering Robert to: (1) refrain from committing or threatening to commit such prohibited acts; (2) refrain from contacting Julian; and (3) stay away from Julian’s place of employment. Coupled with the final scene in which we see that Robert is taking steroids, it is abundantly clear that despite Robert’s desire to make Frances believe that he is on a path to transformation and healing, he is not.
In a similar vein (no steroid pun intended), we see that Frances is wrestling with the idea of rebirth. In her case, Frances decides to put herself in the running for an open position at Sotheby’s and is quickly offered the job. When Max Brodkin advises Frances that an increase in salary may benefit Robert, she quickly fumbles with an odd request to defer her start date and compensation, which ultimately ends with her not getting the job. As a Maryland attorney, I think that Mr. Brodkin’s advice raises some valid points. For one, Frances’ earnings, even post-separation, constitute marital property, so Robert has a marital property interest in those funds. Second, to the extent that Robert asserts claims for alimony, attorneys’ fees, and child support, Frances’ income is a factor. Frances earning more income may strengthen Robert’s claims. While a new job opportunity in the arts may have afforded Frances the creative outlet she has been yearning for, the legal implications ultimately led Frances to sabotage the new opportunity. In the end, Frances and Robert continue to trudge through the divorce process, without either one of them making much progress in the ways of rebirth and healing.
Episode 09: Church
Original Air Date: November 27, 2016
– Mollie G. Caplis is an attorney at Wright, Constable & Skeen, LLP. Her practice focuses on family law issues, which include separation and divorce, custody (including third party custody disputes involving grandparents), child support, alimony, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, as well as domestic violence and adoptions. Ms. Caplis has also been collaboratively trained to handle family law disputes. She is a frequent speaker on domestic relations issues facing families in transition. Read more >>