September 21st, 2012

No Divorces for Grandma in Spokane; SASE and money order sent to King

In what may have been the fastest turnaround time ever, I got an e-mail back from Spokane County Superior Court. I _sent_ the e-mail shortly before they would have closed in the afternoon, and received it before noon their time the following business day. They searched for all three possible dissolutions in a quite wide time frame and found absolutely nothing. I am in no way surprised.

I spent the early afternoon assembling a package to go to King County Superior Court for copies (fingers crossed) of my great-grandfather's divorce decree (which was listed as granted in a 1963 copy of the Seattle Times, so I'm pretty sure that one really did happen) and possibly his other divorce (less sure it happened or, assuming it did, that it happened in King County). The nice woman who spoke to me on the phone said she'd probably be the one doing the research and figured I'd get it back in a week or so.

I have also established a tentative agreement with someone to go dig the case files out of the regional archives, assuming I really do get the decrees and, thus, a case number back.

ETA: Aha! I took another look at grandma's second marriage certificate. While she got married in Spokane, she is listed as being from Bellingham, which is sort of interesting in its own right and worth further pursuit. But never mind that now. Her husband is listed as being from Clayton, which is NOT in Spokane County, altho it is closer to Spokane, the county seat of Spokane County, than to Colville, the county seat for Stevens, in which Clayton is located.

Always remember: Jurisdiction Matters. Specifically, you can usually get married in any county (and often any state, altho not always), but there are frequently some hard limits on where you can get divorced. I should not have e-mailed Spokane Superior Court; I should have called Stevens Superior Court.

Which I did, today, and they owe me a callback. Since I called them (and they did not call me back before close of business, but that's hardly surprising), I lucked into a notice in the Spokane Daily Chronicle that my grandma's second husband was filing for divorce from her, thus giving me a hard date that I can relay to the clerk if they cannot find anything. Interestingly, this wasn't just my grandma's second marriage (with kids from the first marriage). It was the man's second marriage as well (with two kids from the previous marriage). I missed the earlier one in the Washington Digital Archives (this is the problem with an uncommon last name that looks a lot like a common last name), and until I spotted the 1940 census entry, I had no idea. Dunno what happened with that marriage, altho it was performed by a Catholic priest, but the bride's sister would ultimately marry some guy with an LDS elder officiating.

The Spokane Daily Chronicle notice was truly a lucky strike, because I got it through the short-lived google newspaper scanning project, and they did maybe five newspapers for each month for this title for a few years. The odds of getting anything out of that were Not Great, and I got both the divorce notice AND the betrothal notice for the guy's first marriage.

Google at Own Risk: Bigamy Edition


(There was this other bigamy story making the rounds, some guy's wife saw him in a wedding photo and turned out he didn't actually get the divorce he should have before remarrying.

Bizarrely, both the military one and the "facebook" were in Lincoln County, Washington. I frequently forget Lincoln even exists, possibly because they are so right-wing out there they went for Goldwater back in the day and haven't really moved any closer to the center in the intervening decades. About 10K people live in the entire county, and they should definitely stay there, growing outrageous amounts of lovely wheat, and not annoying the rest of us with their nutty politics. Or marital misbehavior.)

Anyway. The military one is flabbergasting. On the one hand, you sort of want to go, hey, if someone tells you you are divorced and you never saw the paperwork, you go find a cheap lawyer to draft a letter requesting the proof. Once you have the proof, you determine if (a) you really are divorced and now you know or (b) you aren't, and someone has been lying to a court and other people too, and you might be able to interest a prosecutor. If this process takes years, you're probably doing it wrong (e.g. you are on the phone when you need to be writing letters, possibly on some lawyer's letterhead). Also, this whole not responding to legal paperwork thing is childish all around.

But ignoring the bad tactics, the most horrifying part of the whole article about the guy who ditched the first four kids and wife for a new wife and two new kids (which he could have done legally, altho it probably would have cost him more, what with property settlement, child support, possible spousal support and so forth) is this:

""You don't see the military prosecuting servicemembers for bigamy very often," said Michael Navarre, a former Navy Reserve prosecutor and adviser to the National Institute of Military Justice. He is not involved in the Siemers case.

The military has discretion on what charges it will seek, Navarre continued, and typically prosecutes bigamy and adultery only when it's connected to conduct that brings discredit to the armed forces.

He said he is aware of other cases in which servicemembers have forged divorce decrees."

The first paragraph makes you go, yeah, like never, but clearly the author double checked that: this is _not_ the first time someone has forged a divorce decree. Yeesh.

ETA: A and B are married. B. leaves, marries C (using a phony name, claiming to be a widow). C. dies. A and B finally get divorced. B wants to collect a share of A.'s retirement benefits reflecting the time since they were married until now, rather than until B married C. What to do? Turns out, it depends on where the marriages occurred, and a variety of other matters as well.

One takeaway: if your spouse up and leaves you to take up with someone else by marrying them, you should probably do something about it, rather than just twiddling your thumbs and staying married to them. Don't just assume that because they left you and remarried, that they won't come back later and try to take your stuff.

A bit more about bigamy and community property:

Obviously not a new question. I've already ordered a copy of Ginger Frost's _Living in Sin_.

ETA: comments have been turned off. Anonymous ones should not have been going through. Dunno what happened.