Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | February 12, 2011

Filing For Divorce, Take One

The first time I went to file for divorce, it went like this:

I left work a couple of hours early to conduct business on the court’s time. There’s nothing to thrill an hourly worker more than to sacrifice a couple hour’s pay in order to go to the courthouse.

The weather was cold and windy. After driving around the one-way streets near the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle for several laps, I finally spotted a parking spot that was, oh, a few blocks due straight up from the courthouse. I figured out how to pay the new-fashioned parking meter — it takes credit cards, for crying out loud — and paid for a couple of hours, just in case. Gripping onto the paperwork in the blustery wind, I slunk my way down the hill to 4th.

I went to the entrance, where I was told you can’t enter through that door after noon, and I’d have to go down to the entrance on the other side of the building. Gripping tighter onto the paperwork, I braved the winds as I slowly stooped my way down to 3rd.

Past the doors marked, “Not this one, go to the next one,” I finally found the lone unlocked outer door to the building. I went inside to find airport security staring back at me.

“Take everything out of your pockets,” the friendly sign told me. So, I transferred everything into my jacket to run through the converyor belt of doom. Cell phones, credit cards, pens, keys.

“What about this paperwork?”

“Hold it in front of you as you walk through.”

A grumpy old officer looked disappointed that I didn’t set off the alarm as I shuffled through the metal detector, collected my jacket, and headed for the elevators. Up to the sixth floor. To the Information Desk.

“Where do I go to file this?”

“See the Cashier.”

There were three windows, but only one cashier. Luckily for me, there was nobody in line. She waved me forward. All business. Very DMV. (Or, if you’re from Massachusettes, very RMV.)

I showed her the paperwork. I felt a little sheepish. Like I was doing something wrong.

“Okay, you’ll also need to fill out this other form, and I’ll need a check for $280.”

I pulled out my checkbook, wrote out the $280, and handed it to her.

“I’m sorry sir, this check doesn’t have your address on it.”

“Well, that’s true, but I got those checks when I used to move every year. As it is, I’m moving on Monday, so any address that would be printed on it would be out of date by –”

“I can’t accept it.”

“I can write my new address up here –”

“It has to be printed.”

A pause before she continued. “There’s an ATM machine downstairs.”

“I don’t have a debit card. Will you take a credit card?”

“No. Check or cash.”

“Where’s the closest [my bank] branch?”

“Two blocks up and six blocks over.” Which, in this weather, would have been a royal pain, not to mention I was carrying around this paperwork that was already battered from my brief time outside. I shook my head.

She pulled out a sheet of paper and handed it to me. It contained a printout of the same web page that I’d printed out, giving directions on how to file. The directions said to go to the courthouse. She used a yellow highlighter to reveal a url. “You can file online. Go to this link, and then click on e-file.”

But… why didn’t it say that on the website in the first place, rather than me needing to come down in person for her to tell me that the link on that page that was labeled “for more info” was actually a portal to filing online?

“You do realize that even if I submit the forms online, my address still won’t be printed on my checks.” I pushed the “additional” paperwork back toward her, and a slight draft pulled it across the smooth surface of the cashier window counter (what is that called?), and it flopped down in front of her. Well, crap. I apologized, but she was unimpressed.

She stared at me with such banal contempt and forceful apathy, I felt my irony meters pinning the red. Her look said to me, we’re done here. If you don’t move along, I’m going to press a button and the deputies will escort you away.


“I’ll file online,” I said, and I left.

I went to the office of the business that I share (for now) with Penny, because there’s a scanner there. The scanner hasn’t been used in a while, and like many Windows-driven devices, it forgets how to work if you leave it alone for too long. After messing around with it for a while, I finally managed to scan all of the documents into one big file.

I typed in the url that the courthouse clerk had highlighted and after several try-fail sequences, found the right path to file electronically. I entered our vital statistics, and then got to the page where I could upload my document. Oh… it wants the documents separated, not together.

So I rescanned them. Then clicked on the button to upload the first one. And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And got an error message. The file was too big. It cannot be bigger than 5MB. Okay. I checked the scanner settings (it was set to best resolution, which also means largest file size), and dumbed them down and rescanned the first document. Still too big. I set it for the worst resolution setting, 150-dpi (which is about as bad as a fax), and scanned again. Still too big.

The instructions said I needed to upload a .pdf. Not a .zip. So compression appears to be against the rules (although I’ve been wondering if maybe I was taking the instructions too literally).

Which means I couldn’t file this particular set of documents electronically.

Which means I wasted my time coming to this office, when I should have just gone to a bank, gotten cash, and looked for parking again near the courthouse, even though that would mean facing the Cashier Of Banal Contempt…

By this time, it was after 4pm. I’d missed my window of opportunity to file for divorce. The deed was still undone. It was a Friday. I couldn’t try again until next week, and I’d again have to take time off, and I’d again have to face metal detectors and barely-civil servants, and… and…

And that’s what happened the first time I went to file for divorce.



  1. OMG….that made me dizzy. Just wondering, did you already make your “second attempt”?

    OR…did this all happen “yesterday”?
    And, if so, does that means you will be filing for divorce on Monday…

    …Valentine’s Day?

    • Heh, heh.

      This did not happen yesterday… rather, this is the first chance I’ve had to finally write it up.

      There has been a second attempt, as well. Details in my next post. 🙂

  2. lol… sounds like a thrilling time. I’ve always found that anytime you have to do anything with the government, they put you through sheer hell to get there first. Except for filing taxes… they always seem willing to take my money easily.

    I hope the second time was more successful!

  3. oh, did i have a time and a half filing. ‘course, i also had to contend with a challenge to jurisdiction, which tested my legal acumen and every shred of patience i had. grr. after six months and two filings, it finally happened. someday, when i can revisit the hearing without wanting to punch someone, i’ll have to tell you about that…

  4. wow – that’s quite the process. hopefully it went a little smoother on your second attempt!

  5. I can identify with your travails! I once had to renew my license plates at the DMV, and went through a similar experience. I shot off a letter to the director of the DMV, complaining that the one ID any merchant uses to accept a check or a credit card was a driver’s license, so I didn’t see why the DMV would not. I never got an answer, and I went to another office (open on a Saturday!) and paid cash.

    While I was there, a former office manager was filing his paper work for a trucker’s license. He was telling me that he was going to have to go through this process a minimum of FIVE times – once for each test, assuming he passed each time – before he could get his license. I decided I didn’t have it so bad after all!

    As for the “three windows, one clerk, much waiting” situation, we tax payers don’t like our highly paid public servants, and refuse to pay the taxes necessary to make more public employees. This doesn’t absolve the bad attitude too many have, which is due in part to a constant insecurity over their future employment ad governments all cut back.

    I also hope that your second try worked out much better.

  6. Don’t feel bad. It took me multiple attempts, too. In the end…so worth it! Put on your brave face and your big boy pants. You can do this! And this time, you know what to expect and all the pitfalls to avoid.

    Big hugs!

    PS. Any chance of Skyping in the near future?

  7. OMG! That’s awful! and sounds sorta akin to my passport debacle last week!! Courhouses suck…plain and simple. Can’t wait to hear the second attempt…

  8. Hi INRIS – this doesn’t sound like much fun… Glad to see you are still writing and doing well though. =)

  9. Dude.

    And getting married is EASY!

    Good luck, my friend. Hang in there!

    Oh and this line “like many Windows-driven devices, it forgets how to work if you leave it alone for too long” had me cracking the hell up! It’s SOOO true! Ha!

  10. That’s awful…it makes me want to not file and smack the lady herself. Ugh. good luck sweetie!

  11. Um…not sure I should admit this, but I am a paralegal who works in family law and I also has extensive experience with both the King and Snohomish County Superior Courts…good luck. I admire your determination. Don’t give up. It can be done, but I suspect there will be various moments of frustration. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The folks who work there are there to help you (they need to remember that but they seem to forget more often than not). Also – I didn’t realize non-attorneys could e-file. Learned something new today 🙂

  12. Ok me again. One last thing… aside from the fact that my obvious typo above is killing me (“have” not “has”). Have you spoken with the family law facilitators at the court? They are there for parties who are not represented by attorneys and they are supposed to be able to help you navigate the system. Might be worth checking it out if you haven’t already.

    OK, shutting up now…

  13. I’m sorry but I couldn’t help laughing at this account. I know any time I have to deal with a government entity I just gear myself up for this type of runaround. Kind of reminds me about when I had just arrived in this country and had to go to get a Social Security number. That brought me close to tears … wondering where on earth I had moved to.

    I suggest when you go back to file again, take a gift for the clerk …. maybe some candy …some tulips … nothing that could be construed as a bribe, surprise her and make her smile. She won’t be expecting it and you’ll make her day.

  14. It’s a conspiracy.

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