A month after their 2008 divorce case was filed in Pinellas County, Fla., Terry Power offered to pay his wife of nearly 20 years $5,400 per month in alimony until he retired, and $50,000 in cash.
He also was willing to give Murielle Marie Helene Fournier half of the contents of their opulent home; it was upside down, so they had no equity in it, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Both in their 50s, the two were used to living an upscale lifestyle. But Power’s $250,000-a-year business wasn’t doing well, and while he and Fournier spent nearly five years litigating what the newspaper describes as a “divorce from hell,” some $400,000 went to attorney and expert fees.
Initially cooperative, Power became more angry and resistant the longer the process continued. After enduring the litigation tactics employed by his wife’s lawyers and watching the costs of the case mount, he began representing himself and used some of the same tactics. He also went further, defying court orders and refused to pay bills he said he didn’t have the money to satisfy. At one point, Fournier told a Times reporter, she went for weeks without running water at home, because it had been shut off.
Judges in theory had the power to enforce their orders, but often didn’t take decisive action as the hard-fought case dragged on, the newspaper recounts. (Threatened at one point with a 30-day jail term if he didn’t ante up, Power paid what was required.) The court system also appeared unable to deal effectively with a situation in which much the same arguments were, seemingly, made again and again without resolution.
“I’m trapped in the system, I can never break out. It’s like Groundhog Day,” Power told the newspaper at one point, referring to the movie in which Bill Murray’s character relives the same 24-hour period again and again.
In November, a decision arrived in Power’s mail from the judge—the fourth to preside over the case. It awarded Fournier $1,500 per month in permanent alimony. However, Fournier would have to make a $525 per month child support payment to Power, resulting in an effective alimony amount of just under $1,000, in the immediate future.
Both Fournier and Power told the newspaper the legal system had failed them. Power, saying he was working to get his business back in the black, planned to contest the $87,000 he owed in back alimony. Fournier, who reportedly had turned down his initial $5,400-a-month alimony offer because her legal counsel had told her she could do better, was bitter.
“The thing is, right now Terry’s living very, very well, and I have no money,” she told the newspaper. “He was able to do whatever he wanted with this system…he got angrier and angrier, and it got out of control. If you look at Terry, he didn’t follow I don’t know how many orders, and he was never held accountable.”