Valentine's Day kicks off busy time for divorce courts

By Brent Hopkins,Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 02/15/2008 12:26:17 AM PST

VAN NUYS - For Valentine's Day, Edgar J. Gutierrez buttoned up a black dress shirt, took the hand of Jessica Sanchez and got himself married.

The 19-year-old Van Nuys man had dated the UCLA math major for three years and got engaged last month. They'd made it through good times and bad, so why not make it official on what some consider the most romantic day of the year?

"I just hope things work out and it'll be like the first three years," Sanchez said, holding her betrothed's hand in the waiting room at the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder's Office in Van Nuys.

"Yeah, hopefully, we won't get divorced," Gutierrez said, smiling.

If so, they certainly wouldn't be the first. For all the happy couples cooing "I love you" on Valentine's Day, there are plenty who utter less printable phrases not far away.

On the same day the county brought in extra clerks to handle the rush of new nuptials, five sad souls filed for divorce only yards away at Los Angeles Superior Court.

The hearts-and-candy holiday isn't really a big day for officially breaking up, according to a court spokeswoman. But oddly enough, it's the annual precursor to the break-up season.

"We came up with the idea to check four years ago, and it turns out there's a huge increase in divorces around Valentine's Day," said Ken LaMance, corporate counsel for LegalMatch, a attorney-client matching service.

"Speaking as a married man, people have expectations going into Valentine's Day. Then, if they're not met, they file for divorce. They start thinking, `My partner's not living up to what I want."

In the weeks following the holiday, his company usually sees a 20percent to 30percent spike in divorce filings. Perhaps it was the romantic dinner that seemed a little too mundane. The regifted pendant. The ex-girlfriend's name cried out in a moment of passion. Or just some guy being a real jerk.

A Charleston, W.Va., rock radio station observed the holiday Thursday by giving away a free divorce.

"Sure we can give away concert tickets, and we do," said WKLC-FM Program Director Jay Nunley. "That's going to make you happy for a little while. This is the chance to make someone happy for the rest of their life."

Andeyata and Kijuan Foster were looking for no such freebies as they waited to get married Thursday afternoon in the Registrar/Recorder's Office.

"We've been together four years, we've got a child, it's time to settle down," said Kijuan Foster, who works for a telemarketing company and lives in Pacoima.

"And we love each other!" said Andeyata Foster, a stay-at-home mom. "This is a full-of-love day. Romantic. You can always remember it. Give me a kiss, babe!"

She leaned over and planted a big one on his lips. He grinned and they looked very much in love.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

brent.hopkins@dailynews.com 818-713-3738