Mark and Steve met when they were in high school. Steve was born and raised in the small rural town in which they lived. Mark moved there in 10th grade. Their friendship grew to love, and when they graduated from high school they moved in together.
Steve went to a nearby university and eventually graduated from nursing school. Mark went straight to work and supported them financially the entire time while Steve was in school. Mark was a 9-1-1 dispatcher and in fact, worked various jobs and sometimes held more than one job at once.
Mark and Steve wanted to get married but the laws at the time did not allow it. They planned on registering as domestic partners, and had even filled out the paperwork. They just never got around to making it legal.
The couple was excited when they were able to purchase a home close to Steve’ s family’s 2.5-acre property outside of town. They were the youngest homeowners they knew. It was not without stress, however, and Mark was looking forward to a time when Steve would share in the financial burdens of their household.
After a couple of years Steve finished nursing school. He immediately secured a job at the local major hospital. Steve quickly made several new friends at work, including Rick. During his first day on the job Rick invited the couple to a party at his house. They went. Mark liked Steve’s new friends and even commented to Steve on the way home that Rick was a decent cook.
Within a week of working long hours at the hospital, things began to change. The first weekend Steve did not come home and would not answer his phone. Mark frantically called Steve’s family and friends. Two days later, Steve came home and told Mark that he had spent the weekend with Rick and that he wanted to break up. Steve said that he was moving out of their house.
Mark was devastated. Steve was not interested in talking it over. He was adamant that their relationship was over. He left their house again. When it was clear that Steve was not coming back, Mark loaded up Steve’s personal belongings including clothes, electronics, and books into his vehicle. He drove them down to the shed they had built at the base of the property. The shed had various items including Steve’s 4-wheelers, which were purchased by Mark and titled in his name. Mark then proceeded to light the shed on fire, 4-wheelers and all. Not wanting to start a wild fire, Mark called the fire department and told them he was doing a controlled burn.
The fire department came to oversee the burn and being a 9-1-1 dispatcher, Mark knew the members of the fire crew. When Mark told the fireman why he had burned the shed, the fireman laughed. One even told him not to give his wife any ideas.
Mark then called Steve and told him that there was nothing left for him at the house, so there was no reason to come back.
Jessica H. Anderson
Divorce Attorney Reno, NV
Listen to our podcast about Mark and Steve and Legal Brief #4: Up in Smoke on iTunes.