Kevin Ireland created his blog in January 2008. He called it "My Divorce Sucks."
"If you are reading this then you probably know me," his first post begins. "I needed a way to let everyone know what is going on with my divorce without having to rehash things all the time."
Kevin's wife, Kimberly Ireland, had filed for divorce on March 19, 2007, after 14 years of marriage. The couple had a young son and a teenage daughter. Kevin worked an IT job, and Kimberly was a lawyer who had recently left her position at a large firm to become a partner in a new, storefront practice, McKee & Ireland LLC. Aaron McKee, Kimberly's law partner, was also serving as her attorney in the divorce.
What started as a simple legal proceeding between the Irelands soon mutated into a vicious, scorched-earth campaign. As court filings accumulated, the Irelands' respective attorneys poured gasoline on the flames. A Johnson County judge eventually called it a "classic War of the Roses-type situation" and described the Ireland family as "bizarre."
The Irelands' differences seemed irreconcilable, but when Kimberly phoned Kevin in July 2008, suggesting that they reunite, Kevin readily agreed. Friends say Kevin adored his wife and would have done anything for her.
"If anything, he was a doormat," says Alison McElroy, a friend and former co-worker of Kevin's.
Kimberly's offer was conditional: She wanted Kevin to fire his lawyer, Edward Byrne. In turn, Kimberly said she would rescind the requests for protective orders that she had filed against Kevin in Johnson County District Court. They could be a family again, Kimberly said, and maybe even move to Florida for a fresh start.
At the time, the $70,000 that Kevin estimated he had spent on legal fees made reconciliation that much more attractive. Ignoring warnings from friends and family, Kevin did as Kimberly asked. He fired Byrne, sold his refrigerator and his washer and dryer, cashed his 401(k), and asked his boss for permission to transfer to his company's Florida office.
Then Kimberly sent Kevin a text message announcing that she had changed her mind.
Kevin was humiliated. On Friday, July 18, 2008, he sent text messages to Kimberly and his mother, then chased a handful of pills with alcohol. When Kimberly, who had a key to his townhouse, let herself in to check on him, she discovered him unconscious and called for an ambulance. He recovered at Olathe Medical Center and spent two weeks at a psychiatric hospital before returning home.
It might have been the cruelest chapter in the Irelands' battle, but it wasn't the weirdest.
If the ferocity of a legal dispute can be measured in the amount of paperwork its parties generate, the Irelands' divorce isn't the nastiest in Johnson County's recent history. That title most likely belongs to the split between Ronald Deffenbaugh, the wealthy founder of the region's largest trash collection company, and his first wife. A Johnson County domestic lawyer — one of the few who wasn't involved in that litigation — calls that case, filed in 1990, "truly legendary." The physical files in the Deffenbaugh divorce have been destroyed, but the lawyer estimates that there were as many as 1,000 separate filings, enough to fill a small storage room.
The Deffenbaugh divorce was understandably huge because it involved millions of dollars in assets. The Irelands, by contrast, had hardly any marital assets or property to dispute. In 2007, Kevin and Kimberly were still paying off their student loans and had no more than $15,000 in equity in their Lenexa home.
At the height of their legal battle, a judge reminded the Irelands that they owed it to their children to come to an agreement. "Get your kids' pictures out of your billfolds and blow them up and put them on the wall," he instructed.