Just because you missed the wedding doesn't mean you're not married

Ex-husbands have tried a lot of angles to get out of paying alimony but this case out of Maryland may have raised the bar for creativity. For 18 years, a man we will call Mr. N was told everyone that he was married to Mrs. L. Mrs. L was the beneficiary on his life insurance policy, he helped her gain permanent resident status by telling Immigration and Customs Enforcement that he was her husband, and in 1994 the couple participated in a "renewal of vows" ceremony in nearby Arlington, Virginia. Then, after 19 years of marriage, Mrs. L decided to call the marriage off. She filed the usual paperwork asking for alimony, division of property and child support. Mr. N's response: "I am unaware" of being married.

The couple is from the Congo where they met and married in 1993. On the day of the wedding, Mr. N was in another country, doing his job as an employee of the World Bank. No need to postpone the festivities - a cousin stood in his place during the marriage ceremony and Mr. N listened to the proceedings over the phone. A dowry of $200, clothes and a live goat sealed the deal, and the newlyweds moved to the United States.

When it came time to go to divorce court, Mr. N told the judge that he was unaware of ever having married Mrs. L and therefore had no responsibility to her. The Maryland District Court did not take that response kindly and issued a blistering response that read, in part, "(Mr. N) is a liar and manipulator. Either he lied to the (court) in his testimony regarding the existence of the marriage and his participation therein or he lied to the World Bank, the Internal Revenue Service and immigration authorities. In either event his testimony is not to be believed."

The Maryland Court of Appeals agreed that the wedding was unusual by American standards but was perfectly valid under the laws of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The marriage would be equally valid under Maryland law, the justices said. So, despite Mr. N's faulty memory, he will have to pay alimony and child support, and split the marital property with Mrs. L. Nice try, Mr. N.

Source: Washington Examiner, "Wedding absence doesn't get Maryland man off hook for alimony," Brian Hughes, Nov. 24, 2012

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