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0839 Getting a Divorce

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 839: Getting a Divorce.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 839. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California. Our website is eslpod.com. Go there, become a member, download the Learning Guide for this episode. Also take a look at our ESL Podcast store on the same website.

This episode is a dialog between Tom and Nicole about getting a divorce. Let’s get started!

[start of dialog]

Nicole: I’m really sorry to hear about you and Catherine getting a divorce.

Tom: I appreciate it, but it was a long time coming. We’ve been heading toward divorce for years. I just hope it doesn’t get too messy.

Nicole: I don’t mean to pry, but didn’t the two of you have a prenup?

Tom: Yeah, but Catherine wants it set aside because our financial situation has changed so much since we got married. She also wants sole custody of Sarah, alimony, and child support.

Nicole: We live in a community property state, so that should simplify things, shouldn’t it?

Tom: You’d think so, but the distribution of property may get complicated. I’m hoping we can settle everything amicably, but I’m ready for a fight, if it turns ugly. I’ve hired Dewey Cheatum.

Nicole: Wow, you’re serious. He’s the most high-powered divorce attorney in this city.

Tom: I’m not taking any chances with my assets or my daughter. If Catherine wants to play hardball, I’m coming out swinging!

[end of dialog]

Our happy dialog begins with Nicole saying to Tom, “I’m really sorry to hear about you and Catherine getting a divorce.” “I’m sorry to hear about” is an expression that we use when we hear some bad news, and we are telling the other person that we understand, and we feel sorry for them. Nicole says she’s sorry to hear about Tom and Catherine getting a divorce. A “divorce” (divorce) is an official or legal end to a marriage between two people. Tom says, “I appreciate it” – I appreciate you telling me that you feel sorry – “but it was a long time coming.” The expression “a long time coming” means that it had been expected for a long time. It was not a surprise. We knew it was going to happen.

Tom says, “We’ve been heading” – Catherine, maybe we should call her “Katie”? – Catherine and Tom “have been heading toward divorce for years.” “To be heading toward” means you are moving in that direction. He says, “I just hope it doesn’t get too messy.” “Messy” (messy) here means difficult, complicated, not nice, not kind. “Messy” can also be when something is dirty or disorganized. You could have a “messy” desk. I could have a messy desk. (Actually, I have a messy desk!)

Nicole says, “I don’t mean to pry, but didn’t the two of you have a prenup?” “To pry” (pry) means to try to find out the details of someone else’s life, to try to find out the secret things that are going on with someone else, things they may not want to tell you about – personal things, private things. Nicole says, “I don’t mean to pry” – my intention is not to pry – “but didn’t the two of you have a prenup?” A “prenup” (prenup) is short for a “prenuptial (prenuptial) agreement.” That’s a legal agreement that is made between a husband and a wife before they get married that decides usually how they are going to have their money divided in case they get divorced. So, a “prenuptial agreement” – “nuptial” refers to marriage – is an agreement that is used often by people who have a lot of money and who are afraid of losing their money if they get divorced. Tom says, “Yeah,” – yes – “we have a prenup, but Catherine wants it set aside because our financial situation has changed so much since we got married.” “To set aside” (aside) means to decide not to use something or to decide not to consider something. Sometimes it can mean simply to save something for later. But when we talk about a legal agreement, it means to not consider it, to act as though it didn’t exist, to ignore it.

Tom says, “She also wants sole custody of Sarah, alimony, and child support.” “Sole” (sole) means just one or just one person. “Custody” (custody) is the legal right to take care of a child. “To have sole custody” would mean that only one of the parents, either the father or the mother – usually the mother – has the legal right to take care of the child, to have the child to live with them. When a man and a woman get divorced, often when there are children, there are disagreements about who should take care of the children. There are disagreements about custody.

Catherine wants sole custody of their daughter, alimony, and child support. “Alimony” (alimony) is money that one spouse, either the husband or the wife, gives to the other spouse because the other person doesn’t have enough money to live on. Traditionally, it has been money the man would give to the woman – the husband would give to the wife so that she could take care of herself, have a place for the child or the children to live, and so forth. Nowadays, it’s not necessarily the case that when you get a divorce, the man will give the woman alimony. It could be the woman giving the man alimony.

“Child support” is when you are legally required to give money to the other parent in order to help pay for the expenses of the child, to feed the child, to send him to school and so forth. Nicole says, “We live in a community property state so that should simplify things, shouldn’t it?” A “community property state” is a state where the law is when a man and a woman get married – when two people get married – your property is divided 50-50 if you get divorced, at least the property that you had received or had acquired – had gotten while you were married. All of the money, all of the property, the houses, the cars – all of that is divided 50-50. The husband gets 50%, the wife gets 50% - that’s a community property state. California is a community property state.

Tom says, “You’d think so” – you would think it would simplify or make things easier – “but the distribution of property may get complicated.” “Property” refers to money and things that you own. “Distribution” refers to who gets what. I get the car, you get the house, I get the jewelry, you get the lawn mower and so forth – that’s distribution of property. Tom says, “I’m hoping we can settle everything amicably.” “To settle” here means to take care of. “Amicably” (amicably) means in a friendly, nice, pleasant way. Tom says, “But I’m ready for a fight if it turns ugly.” “To turn ugly” means to become very difficult, to become very unpleasant – perhaps even dangerous.

Tom says, “I’ve hired Dewey Cheatum.” “I’ve hired” means I have employed, I have give a job to Dewey Cheatum, who we find out, is a lawyer, an attorney. (He works for the law firm, the law company, of Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe.) Nicole says, “Wow, you’re serious. He’s the most high-powered divorce attorney in this city.” “High-powered” means very influential, very powerful. An “attorney,” is of course, a lawyer, someone who helps you with legal matters – contracts, crimes and so forth. “Divorce,” we’ve already talked about, is when you legally separate and end a marriage. So, a high-powered divorce attorney would be a lawyer who is very powerful, very influential who deals with divorces.

Tom says, “I’m not taking any chances.” “To take a chance” would be to risk. Tom says, “I’m not taking any chances with my assets or my daughter.” Your “assets” (assets) are things that are worth money – a house, a piece of land, jewelry, investments and so forth. Tom says, “If Catherine wants to play hardball, I’m coming out swinging.” The expression “to play hardball” (hardball) means to do everything necessary to get what you want, especially when you are arguing or fighting with another person. You don’t care if the other person gets hurt. You’re going to be very tough. You’re going to be what we might call “ruthless” (ruthless). Tom says, if Catherine plays hard ball, he’s “coming out swinging.” The expression “to come out swinging” (swinging) means to be ready to fight, to defend yourself, to argue for what you believe in, in a very strong and forceful way.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialog]

Nicole: I’m really sorry to hear about you and Catherine getting a divorce.

Tom: I appreciate it, but it was a long time coming. We’ve been heading toward divorce for years. I just hope it doesn’t get too messy.

Nicole: I don’t mean to pry, but didn’t the two of you have a prenup?

Tom: Yeah, but Catherine wants it set aside because our financial situation has changed so much since we got married. She also wants sole custody of Sarah, alimony, and child support.

Nicole: We live in a community property state, so that should simplify things, shouldn’t it?

Tom: You’d think so, but the distribution of property may get complicated. I’m hoping we can settle everything amicably, but I’m ready for a fight, if it turns ugly. I’ve hired Dewey Cheatum.

Nicole: Wow, you’re serious. He’s the most high-powered divorce attorney in this city.

Tom: I’m not taking any chances with my assets or my daughter. If Catherine wants to play hardball, I’m coming out swinging!

[end of dialog]

Our greatest asset is our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse. She’s worth more than anything else here at ESL Podcast. Thank you, Lucy.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
divorce – an official, legal end to a marriage

* They might get a divorce, but they’re worried about how it will affect their kids.

a long time coming – expected for a long period of time; not a surprise; something that one has been waiting for or anticipating

* Dewey finally got a raise! She has been working for the company for seven years, so it was a long time coming.

messy – unpleasant, difficult, and complicated

* When the company was bought by a larger business, the merger was messy.

to pry – to want to find out the details of other people’s lives, especially when those other people would rather not share the information

* During a job interview, the interviewer isn’t supposed to pry and ask questions about whether you’re married or have kids.

prenup – a prenuptial agreement; a legal agreement or contract written before two people marry, specifying how their money, property, and other valuable items will be divided if the marriage ends in divorce

* Would you be offended if your fiancé asked you to sign a prenup?

to set aside – to decide not to use or consider something, possibly saving it for later

* Grayson and his brother have been arguing for years, but they’ve finally agreed to set aside their differences and try to have a good relationship again.

sole custody – the legal right to be the only person who takes care of and lives with a child, when the other parent does not have that right

* In the past, courts awarded sole custody to the mother almost automatically, but now they are more likely to consider the fathers, too.

alimony – payments made by one spouse (husband or wife) to the other spouse after a divorce as directed by the court

* Is alimony calculated as a percentage of a spouse’s income?

child support – money paid by one parent (usually the father) to the other parent (usually the mother) to cover some of the expenses of raising a child when the parents do not live together

* Hannah’s ex-husband pays child support, but she still struggles to buy food and clothes each month.

community property – a system where all assets (things worth money) received or earned during a marriage are owned equally by the husband and wife

* They live in a community property state, so even if though her husband never helped with the family business at all, he owns half of the income from that business.

distribution of property – how assets (things worth money) are divided between the husband and wife during a divorce, as directed by a court

* Bryan thinks the court’s distribution of property was completely unfair, but he doesn’t want to spend more time in court fighting against the decision.

amicably – in a friendly, pleasant way

* Carmen has great interpersonal skills and can speak with anyone amicably—even her worst enemies.

to turn ugly – to become very unpleasant, challenging, troublesome, dangerous and/or embarrassing

* The campaign turned ugly when the candidates started saying bad things about each other’s spouses.

high-powered – very powerful and influential, with the ability to make important decisions and persuade other people to believe certain things

* Francisco dreams of being a high-powered businessman.

divorce attorney – a lawyer who specializes in divorces

* Adam decided to stop working as a divorce attorney because he didn’t want to hear any more sad stories about marriages ending.

asset – something that is worth money, such as a home, a piece of land, an investment, artwork, or cash

* For most people, their home is their biggest asset

to play hardball – to be ruthless; to do everything necessary to get what one wants, especially when arguing with or fighting against another person, without caring about whether one hurts or harms that other person

* It looks like our competitor is trying to take our clients. We can’t let that happen. It’s time to play hardball.

to come out swinging – to be ready and willing to fight; to defend oneself; to argue for what one believes in or for what one believes one deserves

* The senators are going to debate some very important issues today and everyone expects them to come out swinging.

Comprehension Questions
1. What is a messy divorce?
a) A divorce that is never completed.
b) A divorce with too much paperwork.
c) A divorce where people fight a lot.

2. Where would Sarah live if Catherine gets sole custody?
a) With her mother.
b) With her father.
c) In an orphanage.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
a long time coming

The phrase “a long time coming,” in this podcast, means expected for a long period of time and not a surprise: “When Helena announced that she was pregnancy, the news was a long time coming so everyone was happy, but not surprise.” The phrase “coming of age” refers to the point in one’s life when one becomes an adult, usually at age 18 or 21, but possibly when one becomes more mature and acts like an adult: “When Randall participated in a study-abroad program as a teenager, it was like a coming of age for him.” Finally, the phrase “up-and-coming” describes someone who is doing well and becoming very successful or popular: “Olga is an up-and-coming singer, and I bet she’ll be very famous within a few years.”

to come out swinging

In this podcast, the phrase “to come out swinging” means to be ready and willing to fight or to defend oneself: “We’ve saved all our receipts, so if the IRS challenges our tax return, we’re ready to come out swinging.” The verb “to swing” can mean to move one’s arm, trying to hit someone or something: “Samuel swung at the other man, but he missed.” More often, the verb “to swing” means for something to move back and forth many times while hanging from a fixed point: “The hypnotist swung the watch from its chain until the patient began to feel sleepy.” Finally, the verb “to swing” can mean for one’s opinions or feelings to change very quickly, without warning: “He swings from laughter to anger so quickly, it’s frightening.”

Culture Note
Types of Divorce

There are several types of divorce, and the types that are available depend on the state in which the husband and wife live. The biggest “division” (different types of) divorce is between “no-fault” and “at-fault” divorces.

In a “no-fault divorce,” nobody has to be “at fault” (blamed; said to have done something wrong). The “parties” (husband and wife requesting divorce) can simply say that the marriage has “failed” (not succeeded) or that they have “irreconcilable” (not able to reach agreement or fix) differences. No-fault divorces allow the husband and wife to separate amicably, without creating a “huge” (very large) legal “battle” (fight).

In an “at-fault divorce,” one of the parties must prove that the other party did something that is “incompatible with” (cannot happen at the same time as) the marriage, such as having an “affair” (a sexual and/or romantic relationship outside of the marriage).

An “uncontested divorce” is an arrangement where the two parties reach agreement on how their assets should be divided and how custody of their children should be awarded. Most divorces in the United States are uncontested. The husband and wife “come up with” (create) a plan, usually by working with one or more attorneys, for how they propose to divide up their assets and assign custody. Then the court can simply “approve” (say yes to) the divorce.

“Regardless of the” (no matter which) type, a divorce always ends with an official document called the “Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage,” which is filed with the court.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - a