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Who prolongs a divorce that should have cost no more than $10,000 and should have lasted no longer than six months, to the detriment of one's own children, finances and health? Kevin's friend McElroy, who eventually became tangled in the litigation herself, has no explanation. With a laugh, she says, "She [Kimberly] would never tell anyone what she wanted. Kevin — I swear to God — he asked a thousand times if he asked once."
Kimberly and Kevin grew up in Valley Center, Kansas, three hours southwest of Kansas City. They were grade-school sweethearts who married in 1992, when they were both 19. Their first child was born that same year.
Kevin earned degrees in accounting and computer programming at Wichita State University. Kimberly also graduated from WSU, then found work as a paralegal. Eventually she enrolled in law school at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. She passed the bar exam and was hired at a large firm, Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice LLC, where she met McKee.
Kimberly became a partner in McKee's practice in November 2006. Kevin had little say in his wife's career move. As he put it, according to court transcripts, "I was informed by Ms. Ireland she was starting whether I wanted to stay married to her or not."
Case transcripts suggest that McKee and Kimberly were close. Kimberly testified in a hearing that she was with McKee at the hospital while his son underwent a medical procedure in 2006. Not long after the Irelands separated, according to the same hearing transcript, Kimberly accompanied McKee and his family on a vacation to Disneyland. (McKee would not comment for this story.)
Early in the divorce proceedings, Kevin was ordered to pay $2,200 a month in spousal and child support, based on the couple's reported annual income. Kevin made $87,000 a year. Kimberly reported her annual income as $24,000. Kevin's first attorney, Darrell Smith, argued that Kimberly was omitting the money she stood to earn as a partner in McKee & Ireland LLC, and that a report of the firm's finances was required to determine her true annual income. McKee refused to divulge that information, claiming that it "would be harmful in that competitors could utilize the documents to gain an unfair competitive advantage, and the opportunity to steal clients."
McElroy estimates that Kevin's monthly support payments to Kimberly ate up 85 percent of his pay. The court decided that the children should stay with their mother in their own home, so for a while, Kevin lived in his truck. McElroy was also going through an ugly divorce at the time and was struggling financially. She let Kevin move in with her until he found his own place.
McElroy soon found that anyone who stood with Kevin became a target of Kimberly's wrath. "She had a huge problem with Kevin moving in with me," McElroy says. "That's absolutely when my trouble started. They [Kimberly and McKee] used the legal system as their personal arsenal to make people miserable."
References to McElroy (whose name was Alison Reed at that time) began appearing in Kimberly's case filings. McElroy says she got a "hateful" phone call from McKee, threatening to "make [her] life miserable" by feeding damaging information to the lawyers of McElroy's soon-to-be ex-husband during McElroy's divorce case.
By the time Kevin moved into a townhome in Olathe on October 1, 2007, the volley of accusations between the Irelands had turned into an all-out paper blizzard.