What shouldI do if I got re-married a year ago but at the time I didn’t know that my divorce wasn’t finalized?

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What shouldI do if I got re-married a year ago but at the time I didn’t know that my divorce wasn’t finalized?

My ex-husband and I had not been together in 8 years year., We had filed the divorce paperwork ourselves. They do not send a divorce certificate and I thought that everything again had gone through. It wasn’t until about 3 months ago that my ex told me that it was not finalized because there were child support papers that were not filed out completely. My ex and I immediately fixed the paperwork and the divorce has been official for 3 months. Does this mean that my marriage from last year is not valid and can I still use my new married name or must I go back to my maiden name?

Asked on July 16, 2011 under Family Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you were still married to person A at the time you tried to marry person B--and if the divorce was not yet final, you were still married--then your marriage to B was not valid. It is not possible in this country to be married to two people at the same time. You can certainly get remarried again, and probably should do so as soon as possible, since while not married, you don't have health care decision making rights over each other, can't inherit if something happens to one of you as a spouse, can't file taxes jointly, etc. (In fact, you may wish to consult with an attorney about how to deal with any consequences, such as possibly incorrect tax filings, made while your marriage was not valid.)

As to name: being married does not automatically mean you take the other person's name; conversely, you can change your name, including taking a romantic partner's name, whether you are married or not. The issue is whether you properly  did the name change (filled out the right forms, etc.) You may wish to double check with your attorney when youd discuss other issues, but you should still be able to use the name you changed your name to after your second marriage.

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The first thing you need to do is go to the court house where your divorce petition was filed and go though the entire file, page by page. The file will be in the court clerk's office. It is a public recod that you can review.

In most divorce proceedings the court deals with several issues, 1. dissolution of the marriage, 2. division of assets and liabilities, 3. spousal support, 4. child support, 5. other matters.

Usually the marital status of the parties is the first thing resolved where the court issues a decree of dissolution and it is filed with the court clerk. If there is a decree of dissolution filed with the court clerk on your matter before you got married, then everything is fine concerning your subsequent marriage.

If there is no decree of dissolution of your prior marriage and you got married again while still being married to another person, you have potential problems as to validity of the subsequent marriage in that polygamy in the United States is outlawed.

If you are in fact "married" to two people at the same time, the second marriage would most likely be deemed invalid. One way to start clearing up the possible problem if your prior marriage was not dissolved by court decree is to have it declared dissolved "nunc pro tunc", meaning "now for then" where the dissolution decree date would pre-date the date of the subsequent marriage.

Good luck.

 


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