Divorce Court

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Weekdays on Premiered Aug 30, 1999 In Season

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Divorce Court

Show Summary

Courtroom-themed shows have been a staple of syndicated television for many years. One of the earliest and most enduring examples of this realtiy-based genre (long before the term "reality TV" had even been coined) is Divorce Court. It may be hard for some of today's younger audiences to believe, but the original Divorce Court bowed in 1957 and lasted 12 years in daily syndication. A new, harder-edged Divorce Court bowed in 1985 and ran another five seasons. The current version, involving real-life divorcing couples and even more hard-edged, bowed in 1999. In both versions, divorcing couples presented their stories before the judge – Voltaire Perkins in the 1950s and 1960s version; William B. Keene (best known for presiding over the William Bonin "freeway killer" trial) issued his rulings in the 1980s. A new case was presented each day, with usually – but not always – both litigants seeking a divorce. The court reporter briefed the TV audience on the basics (the names, reasons for the divorce, how long they've been married and other issues the soon-to-be ex-couples wanted resolved (including child custody and asset division)). The attorneys each gave opening statements, while the litigants, along one or two supporting witnesses, giving their side of the story and enduring cross-examination. Many of the stories involved accusations of cruelty, adultery, desertion and irreconcilable differences, while the cases often had many strange twists and turns. And – rather than focus on the henpecked wife's affair with the milkman or the husband's meddlesome mother interfering with and ultimately ruining the marriage – Divorce Court focused on more sensational cases with "shock value." For example: • A father who deliberately involved his children in "accidents" so he could collect on the insurance. He would pay them off by offering them presents and other rewards. • The woman who hosted male-stripper parties overnight while her husband was "working late" and suspected of having an affair of his own. Frequently, the judge interviewed minor children involved in cases where child custody was at issue. The judge always rendered his decision by the end of the program and resolved other divorce issues, such as alimony, division of assets and child custody. Although the cases were fiction, they were said to be based on real-life divorce cases. Many of the stories during the 1957 and 1985 versions of Divorce Court explored serious issues, including racism, alcohol and drug abuse, war, cancer, grief, pornography and much more. In later years of the 1980s version, some divorce proceedings were played out over multiple shows; litigants (instead of spending five minutes on the stand and enduring a one-minute cross-examination), now could possibly spend the entire program on the stand. The court reporters interviewed the litigants prior to each show. Unlike the 1957 and 1985 incarnations, which used actors as the litigants and student attorneys to argue each case, the 1999 revival of Divorce Court was promoted as settling real-life divorce cases invovling acutal couples. The couples presented their stories before Judge Mablean Ephriam, who gave her decision and settled the requisite divorce issues at the end of the show. On Wednesday, April 1, 2009 and Thursday, April 2, 2009, a special two-part session of Divorce Court will air starring former evangelical prearcher Ted Haggard and his wife Gayle. Ted was one of America's most influential and respected Christian leaders until his secret life unfolded in the media headlines, with accusations of a drug fueled, affair with a male prostitute. Tune in and find out what Judge Toler has to say to both Ted and Gayle about the scandal that shocked the nation and made the once popular pastor an outcast.

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Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 5/19/2017

Season 18 : Episode 155

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  • Randy West

    Randy West

    Interviewer (pilot)

    Colin Male

    Colin Male

    Court Reporter (1957-1969)

    Jim Peck

    Jim Peck

    Court Reporter

    Voltaire Perkins

    Voltaire Perkins

    Judge (1957-1969)

    Mablean Ephriam

    Mablean Ephriam

    Judge

    Tuesday
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    Thursday
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