A Staten Island woman’s penchant for blogging about her belly dancing has ruined her chance for monthly support payments from her ex-husband.
Dorothy McGurk claimed she remained disabled and unable to work after a 1997 car accident and needed $850 a month in support payments for life from her soon-to-be ex-husband.
But Brian McGurk turned the tables on the eve of trial in February 2009 and presented Supreme Court Justice Catherine M. DiDomenico (See Profile) with a series of his wife’s blogs to counter her claim she had trained as a belly dancer only for physical therapy, took lessons only once a week and had stopped dancing entirely in 2008.
Ms. McGurk, who also attended training to become a Reikki master spiritual healer, chronicled her dancing on blogs posted on Tribe, Facebook and MySpace from 2006 to 2007, four years after her surgery. Ms. McGurk blogged that she had been “dancing alone, everyday for three years” and had decided to dedicate herself to her “passion” and take dance classes twice a week.
One post read: “It’s been a three and a half year journey of realigning my spine (and hardware), body, mind and spirit with belly dancing for me. Today as I danced myself silly, I lifted my head and elongated my neck…as I swirled around… And then it happened, I got really, really high.”
The divorce trial took place at several hearings throughout 2009 and 2010. At hearings in 2009, Ms. McGurk said she was prescribed belly dancing as “a form of physical therapy” to deal with chronic back pain because it strengthens and stretches her muscles.
But when her own doctor was called as an expert witness and asked if he had recommended dancing to his patient, the doctor said, “I don’t know anything about it.”
That same doctor had testified that, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, Ms. McGurk was not capable of any employment.
But the doctor was unaware of Ms. McGurk’s use of a home computer, her belly dancing classes and her frequent trips to Manhattan to dance, and, in cross examination, he conceded he could not definitively say she was physically incapable of holding a job.
The McGurks were married on Staten Island in 1995, and the car accident that damaged her back took place on their second wedding anniversary.
During those first two years of marriage, Ms. McGurk worked as a legal secretary for three law firms, including Hall & Hall on Staten Island, and for an architect.
“The court finds not credible Wife’s testimony that she ‘quit’ each and every one of these positions and that she was never terminated,” Justice DiDomenico said in her opinion in B.M. v. D.M., 50333/2007. “Wife has not worked in over 15 years.”
The accident, the judge said, was the subject of a jury trial in 2006 that ended with a verdict in the couple’s favor for $99,183 in damages. But the jurors answered “no” to the question of whether Ms. McGurk “sustained a permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member as a result of the accident,” and it awarded no damages for future pain and suffering and no damages for loss of enjoyment and life.
Ms. McGurk, now 43, underwent two surgeries in 2003 and 2004, attended physical therapy and is taking several prescriptions.
Mr. McGurk, now 37, filed for divorce in 2007 and was initially ordered in 2008 to provide pendent lite maintenance of $850 a month.
Mr. McGurk was represented at the divorce trial by Thomas S. Kyle of Staten Island. Ms. McGurk was represented by Patrice Genco Nichas of Mattawan, N.J.
Not only did Justice DiDomenico deny the $850 a month sought by Ms. McGurk, she also ordered her to pay $5,000 plus interest to compensate her husband for attorney’s fees wasted by her failure to show up to court in 2008, failure to turn over discovery and other “dilatory acts.”
The judge credited Mr. McGurk’s testimony that, from 1997 to 2007, while holding down his job as a postal employee, he did all the cooking, cleaning and laundry.
The judge also awarded Mr. McGurk 60 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the marital residence, finding, “Husband credibly testified that Wife worked only two years of this eleven year marriage. The court credits Husband’s testimony that Wife slept all day or otherwise spent her day on the computer participating in Internet blogs.”
The decision shows that Ms. McGurk continued to blog about her dancing when the trial was on hiatus.
When proceedings resumed last year, Mr. McGurk again introduced posts, this time from Facebook in 2010, and they were damaging.
Under pressure on cross examination, the judge said, Ms. McGurk admitted dancing as recently as May 20, 2010, and participating in a June belly dancing production in Manhattan, but nonetheless insisted she only had a speaking role and only did a simple “ring around the rosy.”
But on her blog post she said: “I’m experiencing my first fun gig… I’m going to be nervous as hell when its show time, but I know my sisters and I will ease each other through it. It’s my first on stage solo :::knees knocking:::, then I’m joined by 6 priestesses.”
It continued: “I’m spinning!! I’m spinning!! I’m able to keep a slow steady spin without wanting to fall over or bang into a wall!! This is big for me girls!! All these years all I could do was about 3 spins get dizzy and the giggles.”
The posts show that Ms. McGurk had been asked by visitors to Facebook why she had not put up photos of herself at the Manhattan performance.
“Gotta be careful what goes on line pookies,” she answered. “The ex would love to fry me with that.”
@|Mark Hamblett can be contacted at email@example.com.