Couples learn divorce isn’t final until decree is filed

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DEAR ABBY: After reading the letter from “Married? In Arkansas,” who found to her dismay that her husband was still married to his first wife, I thought I should write. It happens more than people would like to think.

I have worked for more than 10 years on a divorce court staff, and I would advise all divorced people – male and female – to request a certified copy of their divorce decree. This official document is available from the courthouse in which they were divorced.

I know of at least two instances where the lawyers failed to submit the decree of divorce to the judge. It was only discovered more than a decade later. In the first instance, as part of the property settlement, the husband was going to buy out his ex-wife’s interest in the former marital home. The provision was triggered by the youngest child turning 18. The mortgage company needed a copy of the divorce decree to refinance the mortgage. Surprise – both the husband and wife had remarried! They had to go through another divorce proceeding. (It was probably more amicable than the first.) But they were humiliated, not to mention furious at the attorney. Then they had to “remarry” their current spouses.

The second incident was very sad. The parties’ son was killed in an accident. In the process of filing a wrongful death action, a copy of their divorce decree was needed. That’s when they learned their case had been dismissed for “failure to prosecute.” Again, the attorney had not filed the judgment, even though the parties had appeared in court and testified.

Please, Abby, tell your readers if they have gotten a divorce and do not have a certified copy of their divorce decree, to get one now. Most attorneys are hard-working and honest. But it never hurts to have insurance, and this is some of the cheapest insurance they’ll ever get. – CONCERNED COURT REPORTER

DEAR CONCERNED: I’m sure your letter will raise some eyebrows, but you have offered some good advice, and I hope my readers will pay attention to it.

DEAR ABBY: Please help me. I’m 14, the oldest of four children. The second youngest is “Rose.” She’s 8 and was the baby of the family until about three years ago, when Mother became pregnant. Needless to say, Rose was not happy with the news. When we were told a few months later that the baby would be a girl, Rose cried and said she wanted a boy. Then, when baby “Claire,” was born, Rose had a temper tantrum because she wasn’t the baby anymore. Rose had been so used to being doted on and getting everything she wanted – and here came this new baby.

Now Rose is continually abusing Claire. She will scream at Claire for just moving something out of place. For instance, Rose was dancing to some music in the family room, and Claire came in with a laundry basket. Rose went nuts. She turned and screamed, “Get out! I’m dancing, you idiot!” Then she went and gave Claire the biggest slap on the shoulder! Claire went crying to Mom and said Rose hit her, but Rose denied it, even though I was there and witnessed everything.

Is this jealousy, or something else? – STUNNED IN BILOXI, MISS.

DEAR STUNNED: It’s jealousy – and that kind of sibling rivalry goes all the way back to Cain and Abel. I hope you told your mother what really occurred, because your mother’s work is cut out for her. Not only does she have her little one to tend to, she is going to have to give Rose more attention. It will alleviate some of her jealousy and also ensure that Rose cannot act out – and lie – without punishment.

I recommend that your mother involve Rose in a special activity – something that is just for her – so she can feel “special” again. She’s an angry little girl, but she cannot be allowed to continue abusing her little sister.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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