In the premiere episode of Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story, Dan and Betty Broderick are in the midst of a separation that’s teetering on the brink of becoming a contentious divorce.
Betty Won’t Play Ball
It’s 1986 in sunny La Jolla, California, the backdrop for what once was a fairytale marriage between Dan and Betty Broderick. But Betty, mother to the couple’s four children, is digging in her heels with estranged husband Dan, fighting for what she believes she rightfully deserves. Despite the counsel of her lawyer, Bob, Betty refuses to sign papers allowing Dan to sell the house in which they raised their family for half of what it’s worth, especially when she’s now stuck with the teardown of a house that she and Dan had purchased together. Dan, a successful lawyer specializing in malpractice litigation—who, according to Betty, “never loses”—finds a way to move forward with the sale without her consent. Unable to control her frustration, Betty considers torching the house…but then drives her car into the front door of Dan’s current home instead.
“What do we do here, Bets?”
After Dan wrestles Betty out of her car, as opposed to straight up getting her arrested (since she also violated an order of protection by being on his property), he convinces the police to have her committed for “observation.” The police haul her off in a straightjacket in front of her two daughters. While she’s in the psychiatric hospital for a 72-hour period of observation, Dan calls to try to make a deal with her to settle their disagreement about the house sale. But Betty refuses to budge.
Glimmer of Hope?
When Dan visits Betty after she returns home from the hospital, he suggests they hit “reset” so they can “break the pattern.” He offers to pay for Betty take the kids on a ski trip. Betty takes the gesture as a sign that perhaps Dan isn’t ready to end their marriage. Betty’s friends Evelyn and Karen recommend that the best way to test if Dan’s really on the fence is to reinvent herself to show him everything he’d be missing. Encouraged by this idea, Betty lands a job at an art gallery.
“You’re losing already.”
Meanwhile, with Dan not paying Betty’s lawyer’s retainer as he promised and Betty unable to come up with the cash, Betty starts dodging Bob’s calls and ignoring his counsel. That is, until she gets an upsetting and confusing letter from Dan. When she calls Bob, he explains that Dan is pursuing a “bifurcated divorce” to separate their marital status from the property settlement, in addition to seeking primary custody of their kids. However, since Betty has been dodging Bob and he hasn’t been paid, he resigns as her attorney. “I can’t help someone who won’t listen,” he says. Betty attempts to find a replacement, but she gets turned down by every lawyer in the phone book, including friends of friends.
“Divorce is like war.”
Without legal representation, Betty has been relying on Dan to keep her apprised of the date of the court hearing. But when Betty tells her one divorced friend, Marie, that she postponed the hearing by calling the court clerk, Marie is immediately concerned that Betty is in over head – because Marie knows that a postponement would be confirmed in writing. In fact, as Betty and Marie have lunch, the hearing is taking place as scheduled—without Betty present. The judge not only grants the dissolution of their marriage, agreeing to bifurcate it from the remaining issues in the case, but also sole custody of the children….just as Dan wanted.