The front door of Alain and Cheryl Doucet's four-bedroom house had a cute, old "Home Sweet Home" sign. Step inside, and it was anything but.
The couple divorced in April 1995. But a judge ordered them to live together until their youngest child turned 18.The Doucets tried to avoid crossing paths. They spoke only when absolutely necessary. And as much as possible, they tried to stay away from home, where separate phone lines and televisions kept them as far away from each other as possible.
The Doucets agree on one thing: Their split didn't have to be this bad. Or, as Cheryl Doucet described it, "very vicious."
"It was a miscarriage of justice," Alain (pronounced Alan) Doucet said. "If I had known what the judicial system was going to do to us, I would have packed my bags."
Doucet, from a tiny town in Nova Scotia, met Cheryl in the honeymoon capital of the world, Niagara Falls, N.Y., in 1975. They were married a few months later.
He adopted her son, Brad, from a previous relationship, and the couple had a daughter and son of their own; Andrea, now 20, and Stacey, 18.
Things soon turned sour. He says she was irresponsible. She says he was domineering. They filed for divorce in 1992.
Three years later, Cuyahoga County Judge Stanley Fisher issued a divorce decree, with a catch: He ordered the two to stay in the same home until Stacey reached 18 or graduated from high school. Fisher refused to say why he gave the order.
Alain Doucet figures the judge was trying to come up with a compromise. Cheryl Doucet wanted the house, alimony and custody of the children. Doucet didn't want to lose daily contact with his children.
The home quickly divided into camps. Cheryl Doucet, 48, got her own phone line and spent as much time as she could behind her locked bedroom door.
A community college student, she stayed away from home whenever she could - sometimes going to movies and going back to the house when everyone was asleep.
While Alain Doucet and the children shared meals, Cheryl Doucet kept her food separate and didn't eat with the others.
Alain Doucet, 51, also tried to keep a low profile. His job helping direct shipping and receiving for a local rail manufacturer became a refuge. But there were times when they couldn't avoid each other.
"If you went to the bathroom and the door was closed, you just had to wait there," Cheryl Doucet said.
Caught in the middle were Stacey and Andrea. "It was weird and divided," Stacey said. "There was always a struggle going. Mostly, if I wanted to go out with my friends, I would ask my dad."
Cheryl Doucet said the setup caused friction between herself and the children. "There was plenty of screaming and yelling," she said. "Our relationship is totally gone."
According to Fisher's order, the Doucets were to finally get rid of each other last week, when their son turned 18.
Alain Doucet was already gone, remarrying and moving out on May 2. Despite their misery, Cheryl Doucet tried unsuccessfully to stop him from leaving.
"I didn't care that he was getting married, but he was breaking a court order," she said.
The pair were back in court this week, fighting about alimony payments. Cheryl Doucet represented herself, saying she had no money for an attorney. Alain Doucet declared bankruptcy in June.
Stacey moved in with his father on his birthday. "It feels like dropping a load off my back," Stacey said. "I sleep better now."