Valentine's Day: The day to get divorced

February 14, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
While romantics celebrate this Valentine's Day, the city of San Francisco is getting down to business. It seems Superior Court has quite a backlog of divorce cases and San Francisco picked this day to begin fixing the problem.

At San Francisco City Hall, today a love rush to get married.

"The contract of marriage is most solemn," a judge says as she marries a couple.

And on a Valentine's Day an even more romantic scene as a newly-married couple is asked,

ABC7's Wayne Freedman: "You used to be a Mananzilla, and now you're a?"

"Yamaguchi," the bride replies.

But if one views the institution of marriage as a paper trail, its yin may lead to a yang, because one block away from City Hall, in Superior Court you can hear the words, "Your petition for dissolution..."

We found Lajeune Pyles, following up on a letter with bad news, to say the least.

"They told me I was never divorced from my first husband and I am still married to my second husband, as well," said Pyles.

It's one of those legality induced, bureaucratic nightmares, and Lejeune is far from alone.

"I filed for divorce, but never came to finish it," said Pyles.

This is not a new problem, it's an accumulating problem. By now there are some 15,000 unresolved divorce cases in San Francisco. The oldest goes back to 1908.

ABC7's Wayne Freedman: "Those people from 1908, is this an issue for them?"

"I doubt it, but there might be inheritance issues," said Valerie McGrew.

Valerie McGrew of San Francisco's Unified Family Court figures it's time to clear up the mess. Using state funds, her clerks plan to contact 100 cases a week, beginning with the most recent and then, through a self-help law center, guide them through the process.

"I thought I had did it. I thought I was divorced," said Pyles.

Realistically, it may take years to clear these cases, for lack of staffing, but in an inexplicable twist of logic, the court decided Valentine's would be a perfect day to start.

ABC7's Wayne Freedman: "On this Valentine's Day, all you want is?"

"To be free," replied Pyles.

She will need a divorce from number one, then an annulment from number two, and that would be the easiest legal solution. Lajeune's good news that both of her ex-but-current husbands, remain single.

"What have you learned from this?" asked Wayne. "Not to get married again," said Pyles.