Kentucky Judge Stuns Divorcing Couple by Ruling They Should Try to Reconcile
The Kentucky couple has separated after 13 years of marriage and were in court to finalize their divorce.
Divorce attorneys see a lot of unusual behavior, but it usually doesn't come from the judge.
A Kentucky couple appearing in court to finalize their divorce were stunned, as were their attorneys, when Bullitt County Judge Monica Meredith declined their petition and ruled that because the two had been so cordial to each other during legal proceedings, they should give it another go and return to counseling.
Nicole and Douglas Potts had been married for 13 years before separating and filing for divorce. They have a daughter, whose needs they agreed to put first while ending their marriage.
Attorney Sidney Vieck, who represents Nicole Potts, said she was shocked by Meredith's ruling.
"Sometimes, people realize their marriage is over, but they can manage to act mature and polite, as in this case," Vieck told Inside Edition Digital. "There was nothing left to save in this situation. When two adults agree their marriage is over, it’s over, but here the court has ordered the parties to live happily never after."
During an August virtual hearing, Meredith said, "I get the vibe that you might be able to work this out, and I could be wrong, but I sit through a lot of these things."
Then she asked, "Would it be beneficial to either of you all if I ordered you two to reconciliation counseling or are you past that?"
Nicole Potts replied yes, they were. And they had already tried counseling.
"I would say we are past that. I mean, this has been a year in the making at this point," she answered.
Nonetheless, the judge declined to grant a divorce decree and instead, issued a ruling ordering them back to counseling, and to not expose their child to people they may be dating.
"While it is highly unusual, in this instance, the court cannot make the finding at this time that this marriage is irretrievably broken based upon the testimony and evidence before it," Meredith wrote. "Frankly, the court observes these parties to be two people who have lost the ability to communicate with one another about their emotional relationship and, perhaps, have let their pride become a wall between them."
Nicole Potts' lawyer said it seemed the couple was being punished for being civil to each other.
"The court’s refusal to divorce the parties based upon a finding they were mature and respectful is not authorized by the law," Vieck said. "In family court, it is typically the norm for parties to be hostile towards each other and the courts admonish such behavior. Now, the courts will seemingly punish parties no matter how they behave."
Douglas Potts' attorney, Dorothy Walsh Ripka, was also shocked.
"In this situation, I think that Judge Meredith misconstrued their maturity and civility as co-parents for a desire to reconcile their marriage. My client intends to do what is in the best interests of his daughter and comply with the terms of this order so long as it is in effect," she told Inside Edition Digital.
The decision mandates the couple continue counseling until mid-October and prove to the court they had tried to reconcile.
Because the ruling was not a final order, Vieck said, she filed a motion to have it set aside. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for Sept. 13, she said.
Meanwhile, the couple say their child is their top concern.
"Sometimes people lose sight of what's best for their children, and we have made a decision not to do that to our daughter," Douglas Potts told WLKY-TV.
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