My Grandmother’s Divorce

Wyoming State Archives website
Wyoming State Archives

I work­ing to declut­ter my home and put valu­able and rare genealog­i­cal doc­u­ments in order. In this process, I have been going through some, until now, neglect­ed doc­u­ments that were passed down to me, and find­ing some sur­pris­es.

I had been think­ing about see­ing what I could do about get­ting my grand­moth­er Helen Harris’s divorce papers from the Wyoming State Archives. Divorce records are avail­able 50 years after the date of the event, if you can pro­vide enough detail to locate the records. Of course, I would have the names of both the par­ties (F. Ralph Har­ris and Helen Hill Har­ris), though I would not have known who the plain­tiff was and who the defen­dant was. I did know the rough time­frame (some time between 1941 and 1947).

How­ev­er, I know all of this infor­ma­tion now, as I may have more doc­u­men­ta­tion on the divorce than the state of Wyoming does. I cer­tain­ly have dif­fer­ent doc­u­men­ta­tion: In addi­tion to the signed divorce peti­tion and decree, and the prop­er­ty set­tle­ment and child cus­tody agree­ment, I have the let­ters sent to my grand­moth­er from her attor­ney.

Here is a tran­scrip­tion of the decree of divorce.

IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT
WITHIN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF SHERIDAN, STATE OF WYOMING

F. RALPH HARRIS,
Plain­tiff,

-vs-

HELEN HILL HARRIS,
Defen­dant.

DECREE

The above enti­tled mat­ter com­ing on reg­u­lar­ly to he heard upon the Peti­tion of F. Ralph Har­ris, the Plain­tiff above named, to which an Answer has been filed by Helen Hill Har­ris, the Defen­dant above named, and the said F. Ralph Har­ris being present in Court in per­son and by his attor­ney and said Helen Hill Har­ris, the Defen­dant above named, being rep­re­sent­ed by R. G. Diefend­er­fer, Esq., her attor­ney, and said Plain­tiff hav­ing been put to strict proof the Court finds that each and every alle­ga­tion in Plaintiff’s peti­tion con­tained is true and that the prayer there­of should be allowed.

The Court fur­ther finds that on or about the 17th day of June, 1943, the par­ties here­to entered into a Prop­er­ty Set­tle­ment and Child Cus­tody Agree­ment and that said Prop­er­ty Set­tle­ment and Child Cus­tody Agree­ment should be made part of this Decree.

IT IS, THEREFORE, HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that F. Ralph Har­ris, the Plain­tiff above named, be and his is here­by grant­ed an absolute decree of divorce from Helen Hill Har­ris, the Defen­dant above named.

IT IS FURTHER HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that that cer­tain Prop­er­ty Set­tle­ment and Child Cus­tody Agree­ment made and entered into upon the 17th day of June, 1943, a copy there­of being attached to Plaintiff’s Peti­tion, be and the same is here­by made a part of this Decree.

DONE IN OPEN COURT on this the 11th day of Feb­ru­ary, 1946.

James H. Burgess
DISTRICT JUDGE

Approved as to form
R. G. DIEFENDERFER

As I said, there is also the cor­re­spon­dence between R. G. Diefend­er­fer and my grand­moth­er, or at least his side of it. Addi­tion­al­ly, the doc­u­ments include a dual nota­rized copy of the Prop­er­ty Set­tle­ment and Child Cus­tody Agree­ment.

The let­ters from the attor­ney to my grand­moth­er con­tain some notable moments. They begin on August 9, 1945, with:

Dear Mrs. Har­ris:

Your let­ter of August 7th was at hand this morn­ing and I note that you will not accede to your husband’s desire that your ring be returned to him. I will gov­ern myself accord­ing­ly.

Lat­er in the let­ter we see ref­er­ences to the attor­ney hav­ing seen Mrs. Har­ris “when I last talked with you at your apart­ment.” She was claim­ing pay­ment was due per the agreed set­tle­ment. He not­ed that the due date was the 10th, and advised her thus: “you must keep your hus­band advised of your address and if you have not already done so, please inform him there­of at once.” She was now liv­ing at 312 7th Avenue, Spencer Park, Hast­ings, Nebras­ka, and the attor­ney and her hus­band remained in Sheri­dan, Wyoming.

On Sep­tem­ber 25, 1945, there is this:

Dear Mrs. Har­ris:

Your recent let­ters have remained unan­swered because I have been extreme­ly busy in the tri­al of cas­es. How­ev­er, I con­tact­ed Mr. Gar­butt yes­ter­day morn­ing and he will hand to me a copy of your husband’s Peti­tion and of the Sum­mons.

What I do not have in F. Ralph Harris’s peti­tion for divorce. This may or may not be with the divorce papers, but now that I have the exact date of the divorce, and know who the plain­tiff and defen­dant are, get­ting these doc­u­ments should be sim­ple.