Lavin & Parisi, Attorneys at Law

Man divorced wife years before his death without her knowledge

Photo of Karen Lavin

A widow recently learned that her husband divorced her in secret 10 years ago without ever having told her. The couple had lived together for over 30 years until the husband's death at age 65. The 75-year-old widow found the divorce documents while going through the belongings of her deceased husband. The documents were dated eight years before his death.

In Illinois, one cannot generally divorce someone without that person's participation, or at least knowledge. Not only do couples usually need to work out the details of child custody and property division, but the spouses must also have an opportunity to object to the reason given for seeking the divorce. In many states that allow no-fault divorces, the couple must still go through a separation period before finalization.

One exception can be abandonment. Abandonment occurs when one spouse leaves for a certain minimum period of time. Here, the husband claimed that his wife had permanently abandoned him over financial troubles. The husband also claimed that he had served his wife divorce papers.

The widow had never signed any documents related to the divorce, and she was able to prove that she had not left her husband. Indeed, the address that to which her husband claimed she moved did not even exist. A court determined that the divorce was fraudulent and thus the marriage is considered to have remained in effect until the husband's death.

If she was found to not be his legal wife, the widow stood to lose her husband's pension payments and a $44,000 life insurance payment. The husband's children from before the couple's marriage would have received their father's entire inheritance. The two had no children from their own marriage.

Source: Fox News, "New York woman reportedly learns husband divorced her eight years before his death," Nov. 19, 2012

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