It doesn’t matter the reasons or the background, but yesterday I had to go to the courthouse to file a motion to change custody.
I don’t have a lawyer. I can’t afford one, so I do everything via the court’s self help center. That’s where I got my divorce paperwork, and that’s where I got the motion paperwork. The packet comes with detailed instructions, so you know the whole process and what is expected of you. How many copies to make, how to staple them perfectly, and what will happen after you file the paperwork. It’s very helpful.
The night before last, I sat down and read through the packet. I filled everything out. I wrote down how many copies I needed of each page, and noticed that it didn’t say whether to staple the pages. My divorce paperwork stated specifically which pages to staple together. This one said nothing. So I paperclipped each copy of the packets together.
(This is called foreshadowing.)
Yesterday, at around 12:30, I had a co-worker watch the phones so I could walk down to the courthouse (it’s only a 10 minute walk from my office) to file the paperwork. I typically get an hour lunch every day, even if I don’t seem to ever actually take one. This would be my “lunch” hour. I just had to go to the filing office, hand over my paperwork, get them stamped, and then I’d be on my merry little way to serve T’s dad with the paperwork.
The filing office had a relatively short line. There was only three people in front of me. Score! I even recognized one of the ladies behind the counter as the woman who filed my divorce paperwork back in 2010. Her hair wasn’t quite as bright red as it once was. But she still looks like a slightly taller version of the principal from Kindergarten Cop. Across the way is the line I stood in to get my marriage license back in 2007. I don’t see the guy that gave us the license. But I do see a guy that kind of looks like that guy from The Office.
My turn! I walk up to Principal Kindergarten Cop and hand her all of my paperwork. She shuffles through it a bunch of times and tells me that everything needs to be stapled – here, here, and here. But you can’t do it here. You have to go down the hall to the law library and borrow their stapler. And then come back and wait in line again.
So I go, staple my pages accordingly, and head back to the filing office. There are about five people in line. Fine.
My turn! I walk up to Principal Kindergarten Cop as she waves me up. Then she looks at the clock. “Oh, it’s my lunch time. Sorry. You’ll have to back up and wait for the next person.”
Fine (clenching teeth while smiling). The next court staff member waves me over. She doesn’t look like any actors I can think of. But her nails are incredibly long. And they aren’t acrylics. Her real nails are pretty long (but I don’t mean like this long). And yellow-ish.
She shuffles through my papers and declares everything is in proper order (Yay!). Then she UNSTAPLES one of the packets that I JUST stapled. She stamps a whole bunch of stuff, signs some things, disappears into an office for a moment, and then hands me all my paperwork. Since I am poor (my word choice, not hers), I have a fee waiver filled out that actually needs to be approved by the SRL (SLR? I don’t know. Some letters.).
Where is this person? Across the street. In another building. At the self help center. Where I originally bought my packet a few weeks ago.
Go get the fee waiver approved and then come back. But the self help center is closed until 1:30 for lunch.
I hustle over, and there is a group of people standing around waiting for the self help center to open at 1:30. Everyone is standing around, chatting with each other or texting or whatever. There is no line.
There is a brief argument between two women about whether there is a line and whether the one girl “cut” the line and whether the first woman is trashy and something else I don’t really know. I’m almost positive a fist fight is going to break up. I stare at my phone and think how funny it would be if they started fighting right there in the courthouse.
They stop arguing when the self help center opens. I don’t know who gets what spot in line, but I know that I am several people back. Like 10.
I’ve now been away from work for an hour.
I text my co-worker, who says he’s fine and I can take my time.
It is ten after 2 when I am finally called to the front. I sign in and hand over my paperwork. She looks at it and tells me I need to talk to George (name changed because I really don’t remember what she said his name was). She places my paperwork on an empty desk, asks me to take a seat, and tells me I’m next.
After what feels like forever, but might have only been a few minutes, my name is called. You are approved for the fee waiver. Please proceed back to the filing office to file your motion.
Son of a…
So I literally run back to the other building. I get to the filing office.
The line is at least 10 people long. At least.
So I wait. And I wait. And I wait.
Finally! Oh look, it’s Principal Kindergarten Cop again. She takes my paperwork, does her stamping and signing, and then tells me that I am good to go. I can now serve my ex-husband with paperwork to change the custody of our child.
I leave. Two hours after I left work.
And I still have a 10 minute walk back to the office.
Thanks go to Ali for the blog post title!