Couple’s Divorce has Taken 17 Years — and it’s Still Going

After 10 years of marriage, Christo and Sharlene Lassiter decided to call it quits and get a divorce.

That was in 1996. And their divorce is still ongoing. The Ohio couple, who now go by Christo Lassiter and Sharlene Boltz (Sharlene remarried), have been disputing child custody and a host of other issues for 17 years now. According to, the divorce lawsuit contained 1,400-plus entries. The average divorce has maybe 400 entries.

How have the two managed to drag things out for so long? They’re both lawyers.

Passing on worst practices

They both have made a point of dragging out the case and using legal tricks to gain an edge in their cat-and-mouse game. To make matters worse, the two are law professors, which means they’re probably passing these techniques off to current students and future lawyers.

But Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Leslie Ghiz says the couple should know better:

“Both parties ought to be admonished by the State Bar of Ohio. Both are law professors and officers of the Court. Each has a duty to behave in a proper manner, particularly with regard to legal filings, and each has more than pushed the envelope with regard to abusing the court system. It is frightening to this Court that either is teaching current law students the boundaries and ethics of our profession. Both should be thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed of their behavior.”

Loveland attorney George Maley put it more directly speaking to “Holy cow, that is extremely rare.”

Other attorneys declined to use their names for fear of being dragged into the lawsuit themselves.

Staying in court for the kids

Both claim they have fought so hard — and so long — in an effort to gain custody of their children, who are now 17 and 20. Both have had and lost custody over the course of the 17-year battle.

According to Lassiter:

“There has been no spite. I wanted to father my children. I have not seen this as ego-driven. I have not seen this as revenge-motivated.”

But judges and court reps at every step in the process have criticized both parties’ behavior.

And the fight isn’t over yet. There are still three issues that have yet to be resolved. The next hearing is scheduled for September.

Avoiding divorce headaches

Going through a divorce is never easy. And no matter how ugly a separation gets, it’s unlikely it will take 17 years to finalize. Still, there are steps you can take to make the break-up as painless as possible on you and your family:

  • Find a qualified attorney. You don’t technically need legal representation to get divorced in New Jersey. However, hiring an expert attorney to represent your interests is a good way to make sure your emotions don’t compromise your desired outcome.
  • Set a realistic timetable. Divorces don’t happen overnight. If you have a general idea of how long it will take, factoring in court-ordered delays, it’ll be easier to stay sane during the process.
  • Get — and keep — your documents in order. Make sure you know what information your attorney will need and keep up with paperwork you’ve already filed.
  • Focus on the outcome. As this 17-year case shows, it can be easy to get bogged down with “winning” instead of working toward an outcome that benefits everyone. Whenever possible, take a step back to reflect on what would be an acceptable solution for everyone involved. 

If you are thinking about filing for divorce in New Jersey

I invite you to contact the legal team at Maselli Warren for a free consultation. They will meet with you and be able to explain the process and answer any additional questions that you may have.