With divorce becoming more frequent and prevalent into today’s society, it is no wonder that almost everyone either knows someone who is divorced, is getting divorced, or is divorced themselves. Emotions run high during the legal process of separation because of the deterioration of a relationship, the moving forward with your life, and the custody “battles” over children.
Add to this the job of dividing up marital and personal property, and a whole new slew of problems arise, especially if the relationship ended badly or the divorce negotiations or proceedings are progressing in a negative light. Figuring out who earned what income and who contributed to what percentage of certain property, belongings, or lifestyle becomes a party’s worst nightmare. Imagine though being asked to return or divide certain belongings that were acquired during the marriage that have special or significant meaning to you – a professional camera bought to take pictures on your family vacation; a car bought to cart your kids around to soccer practice; or a kidney given to you by your husband to save your life.
It is true – in early 2009, Dr. Richard Batista of Long Island demanded back the kidney he donated to his wife, Dawnell Batista, after two failed kidney transplants. In the alternative, the doctor demanded $1.5 million as compensation. Of course, matrimonial referee Jeffrey Grob decided in February 2009 that the donated organ was considered a “gift,” and thus did not constitute marital property that could be divided.
What is even more disturbing than this brash demand for the return of a donated organ is that it was all an act. Dr. Batista said his aim was to draw attention to the fact that his wife was not allowing him “agreed-upon visitation with the couple’s three children, ages 14, 11, and 8.” Sure, the doctor was probably right to be upset with his wife’s refusal of visitation, but does this warrant such a bizarre (and public) request for return of an organ? When it comes to divorcing couples, should bad-faith requests or humiliation of the other spouse be taken into account by the judge when ruling on the division of marital property? Would this be appropriate? If it were something judges and referees consistently looked at, do you think it would foster more cooperative divorce negotiations and settlements among separating spouses?