Don’t be fooled by the stern looks and tough-talking takedowns from the bench. Judge Judy may have become a household name for her witty comebacks, sharp put-downs and no-nonsense attitude, but behind the scenes, the 80-year-old TV star has battled personal heartache.
Judy Sheindlin married her first husband Ronald Levy in 1964 and the pair had two children: daughter Jamie and son Mark; young Judy put her budding legal career on hold to become a stay-at-home mom. But when she later chose to return to work, Ronald reportedly did not support her and viewed her job as a “hobby and there came a time where I resented that,” Judy told Fox News.
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The pair eventually divorced, and she later met defense attorney Jerry Sheindlin in 1976 at a New York bar. But Jerry was still married to his then-wife — even though they had been separated for years. Unsurprisingly, Judy, then a New York prosecutor, was not impressed with his lack of desire to divorce.
She instructed Jerry not to call her again until he had filed for divorce. Jerry then reportedly argued they could simply live together, to which Judy revealed that she told him it was his job to tell her father.
“I said, ‘I’m not going to do that,'” recalled Jerry. “So she whipped out a calendar and said, ‘Pick a date. Now.'”
They married in 1977, and she became stepmom to his three kids from a previous relationship. But in 1990 Judy’s father Murray — who she called her “champion” — sadly passed away. As Judy grieved, Jerry did not know how to take care of his wife emotionally or otherwise, and she gave him an ultimatum.
Judy and Jerry in 2019
“In a desperate need of a role reversal, “I said, ‘I’ve been taking care of you for 12 years, now it’s your turn to take care of me’,” she told him, “and he was totally unaccustomed to that role.”
“I wasn’t asking for anything unreasonable, and he wasn’t being unreasonable saying that he really didn’t know how to do that. He was 55 and had lived a certain way all his life. He couldn’t even conceptualize taking over that role. He just couldn’t.”
Speaking during the documentary What Makes a Marriage Last, Jerry added: “What she said was, ‘Unless you change, we can’t stay together.’ I said, ‘Tell me what you want me to do. You can’t just say ‘take care of me’. What does that mean? Do you want me to carry you from place to place? Do you want me to buy you things? Do you want me to feed you? Do you want me to keep you warm? What you have to do is tell me – use your words and tell me what you want me to do to take care of you.’ She said, ‘Just take care of me.’ And I said, ‘I don’t know how to do that.'”
The pair met in 1976
Judy then threatened divorce to which Jerry revealed he said: “I dare you,” and the next day he received the papers.
The pair were divorced for a year before they rekindled their romance, with Judy admitting she “missed” Jerry.
“I just had to come to terms with the fact that men of that generation are different,” Judy explained. “They expect, even if they have no right, they expect to be taken care of or catered to.”
But for their second marriage, it was Jerry who pushed for a quick wedding.
Judy now hosts her show on FreeVee
“I picked her up from work at family court one day, and we were walking through downtown Manhattan,” Jerry shared. “Suddenly I said to her, ‘This is silly. I’m uncomfortable being with you all the time and not being married to you. Let’s get married again.’ She said, ‘Well, how are we going to do that?’ I said, ‘The clerk’s office is right up the street. We can go in and get a license.”
The two lawyers quickly had their license in hand and asked Jerry’s New York Supreme Court justice friend to officiate their wedding at the courthouse.
The two will this year celebrate 45 years of marriage, and despite their busy lives – Judy is now hosting Justice Judy on FreeVee – they are still finding time for each other, and their blended family.