Most people don’t have to think twice about whether or not they are married. They have the marriage license, the photographs, gifts – maybe even the gown or tux to prove it. However, timing can be important when getting married, as one Virginia couple discovered.
In that case, the man and woman were “married” in a ceremony performed by an officiant who was duly licensed in Virginia. This ceremony occurred sixteen (16) days before the couple obtained their marriage license.
Thereafter, the man and woman lived together as husband and wife for eight (8) years and signed an agreement dividing up their property and settling all other matters in the event they separated or divorced. Pursuant to this marital agreement, the “wife” was to receive $125,000 per year in alimony if the couple divorced and over $300,000 in attorney’s fees.
When the woman filed for divorce and demanded the man abide by the terms of their agreement, he responded by claiming he didn’t have to pay because they were never married.
Absurd, right? The couple had a ceremony, obtained a license, and lived together as husband and wife for 8 years!
However, both the trial and appellate courts agreed with the man that the couple were never married. Accordingly, the woman did not receive any spousal support or attorney’s fees, because the marital agreement was null and void.
Why Weren’t They Married?
Virginia law requires that a couple obtain a valid marriage license from the Commonwealth before getting married. Failure to do so, as the woman discovered the hard way, will treat any marriage you thought you had as though it didn’t exist – meaning you were never actually married. This can impact any agreement you and your significant other may have made under the misconception that you were married.
If you are going through a divorce, worried about the timing of your marriage or have any other family law issue, you should contact a knowledgeable family law attorney right away. The experienced family law attorneys at the DiPietro Family Law Group have decades of experience handling all types of family law matters and are here to help you.