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What to do if a spouse says the marriage never happened?

Photo of Karen Lavin


Many Illinoisans can act like reasonable adults while going through a divorce, others less so. For some of these folks, divorce brings out the absolute worst. Take, for instance, a recent case in which a husband claims his marriage never happened -- even though he had a wedding, held out his wife as his wife for 20 years and had three children with her.

The husband argues the marriage was not legal, so the wife cannot divorce him. Specifically, he argues that under his state's law, a couple has to have a marriage license before they get married. In his case, he and his bride-to-be applied for the license two days before the wedding, but did not receive it until more than a week after the wedding.

If a court buys the husband's argument, then there was no marriage. That would likely mean that the husband would not have to divide his assets, which are extensive, or even pay alimony. He would likely only need to pay child support.

The wife has countered the claim with 20 years' worth of proof that the couple has been married, proof such as joint tax returns and, particularly persuasive, a wedding anniversary card from husband to wife saying, "After 20 years I'd marry you all over again."

Though the husband's claim is founded on a technicality, he's hardly the first to raise it. At the same time, the court will also use its common sense and the wife's good faith in deciding the matter. What the court will ultimately decide is unclear.

What is clear though is that Illinoisans confronted with a similar situation may benefit from discussing their case with an experienced family-law attorney.

Source: Forbes, "How Far Some Men Will Go To Get Out Of Dividing Assets In Divorce," Jeff Landers, Oct. 22, 2014

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