Lynn Toler on why she’s leaving ‘Divorce Court’ and whether this pandemic will lead to more domestic violence and divorce

Credit: NEDDERSHRED

Credit: NEDDERSHRED

In an interview, Lynn Toler calls her recent divorce from syndicated judge show "Divorce Court" amicable.

“My contract was up,” said Toler, calling in from her home in Mesa, Arizona. “We were renegotiating. I wanted a different direction of the show. I liked the bench. I liked the robe.”

Toler will be replaced this fall by Faith Jenkins after 13 seasons.

ExploreQ&A with Faith Jenkins, new “Divorce Court” judge

The show had a makeover when it moved to Atlanta for production in 2018. She sat a glass desk and the set looked nothing like a courtroom.

"It was too non-traditional for me," Toler said. "I couldn't even cross my legs. Plus, the direction of the show was louder, crazier, goofier. They were pushing one thing. I was pushing another." So the two sides departed ways.

She didn’t blame Lincolnwood Productions. She said it was the Fox syndication executives calling the shots she didn’t particularly like.

Toler said there were no hard feelings. She said she was treated well and paid handsomely.

“I had 13 years of making more money than I ever thought I would make. I hung on to it. I have options,” she said.

She hopes whatever new show she is involved in down the road, she has more control over the final product: “I want people to see the exact Lynn Toler untinged by unfriendly production.”

“I’m a tough chick,” she added. “I’m feeling really good where I am.”

Toler had nothing but positives to say about Jenkins. “She’ll be great,” Toler said. “I liked her show ‘Judge Faith.’ Nice to have a fresh perspective. I wish her the best.”

The former Cleveland municipal judge shot two seasons of “Divorce Court” at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta in 2018 and 2019. Remaining new episodes are still airing across the country, including Fox 5 (WAGA-TV) in Atlanta at 3 p.m. weekdays.

At age 60, Toler said she is in no rush to make a decision on her next move, and the pandemic won’t hurt her financially.

“I know how to hang on to a dollar,” she said. “I live far beneath my means in Arizona. I downsized from a bigger house three years ago. I bought it in cash. I live in a regular neighborhood and am happy as a pig in slop.”

And while Toler is easily recognized in Atlanta or New York, she said she can live quietly and anonymously in Arizona. “I don’t tell people here what I do,” she said.

Toler has been married 33 years to Eric Mumford. She knows how to keep a marriage together and while being cooped up with her spouse so much could potentially be problematic, she said they know how to communicate without turning arguments into needless firestorms.

“My husband and I have an irritant exchange,” she said. “I keep piles of crap all over the house. He says something. ‘I will pull up the piles of crap if you do a, b and c.’ It’s an on-going conversation.”

She said some couples newer in their relationship might need to schedule time to talk about important issues, but she and Eric do so on an ad-hoc basis. “He takes a breath, and I know what he’s going to say,” Toler said.

In a broader light, she worries about spouses suffering from domestic violence under quarantine. (Divorce? She expects more of those will happen later on.)

“Domestic violence agencies have seen a significant downturn in calls,” Toler said. “Victims are stuck in their homes. They can’t go anywhere. This lack of contact is worrisome.”

In her own marriage, Toler said she knows when to broach a topic with her husband. She won’t just blurt an issue out because she needs to get it out.

“We understand it’s the issue; it’s not us,” she said. “I come in low and slow. ‘Baby, I don’t want to start no trouble. Here are my concerns, baby.’ He knows I’m about to say something negative, but I am not aggressive. I am just trying to resolve it. And you have to listen as opposed to saying there is just one way to do it.”

Sometimes, she’ll wait until his stomach is full, and he’s relaxed. Then she strikes. And even then, they can usually resolve issues in a matter of minutes. “We raise it,” she said. “We resolve it.”

Their household could be the dullest reality show ever. She’d be fired quickly from the “Real Housewives” show. While she doesn’t watch those shows, she does enjoy a TLC line up of “Dr. Pimple Popper, “My 600-Lb Life” and “Hoarding: Buried Alive.”

And she loves being part of WE-TV’s “Marriage Boot Camp.”

“The reality stars are always surprised by the emotional impact,” she said. “They talk about past trauma. Guys like Styles P start crying. It’s unacceptably real for them. Once they start to trust us, you break it down, and they value it at the end.”

She acknowledges a lot of the boot camp exercises are artificial, but the unleashed therapeutic emotions they elicit are genuine.

Toler’s favorite exercise is when they have actors play younger versions of the participants telling their story. “There’s never a dry eye in the house,” she said.

She admits she’ll even cry a bit while watching the scenes in the control room, then gather herself together for typically no-nonsense on-camera advice.

The most recent season, which featured former "Love and Hip Hop Atlanta" star Joseline Hernandez and Atlanta rap star Cee Lo Green, was her favorite to date.

“The cast members got along,” she said. “It was wondering seeing the older couples helping the younger ones. Sometimes, the cast fights the process. They’ll say, ‘I didn’t sign up for this.’ But they should. It’s not like we stormed their house and arrested them and brought them here. It’s a gig. Pull yourself together!”

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