What do I do if my husband died last month in a car accident and now his first wife says that they never got divorced?

UPDATED: Feb 9, 2012

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What do I do if my husband died last month in a car accident and now his first wife says that they never got divorced?

I just found out yesterday when I saw her petition listed in the local newspaper. I had no idea she was doing any of this because it has always been my understanding that they were divorced almost 30 years ago. He married me and she has had 2 other husbands. This is coming out of left field because she never said anything about it while we were married or while she was marrying those other 2 men. One of which she is currently married to.

Asked on February 9, 2012 under Family Law, South Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Retain a family law attorney to understand and untangle this situation--right now. Your rights--such as your right to inherit from your deceased husband, if he did not have a will--are strongly affected by the validity of your marriage. In this country, a person may only be married to one person at a time; if your deceased spouse was never legally divorced from his first wife, then she would still be his wife--and you would not be, unfortunately. That means that, despite the life you had together, if your husband died without a will, she, and not you, would inherit as his spouse under instestate succession. Also, your right to your home could be impacted; if you filed joint tax returns, they may need to be amended or corrected; your right to social security as his spouse would be impacted--the list goes on and on, of things affected by this.

Note that if she and your deceased husband were still married, then her new husband is in the same boat--not that that affects you.

Of course, you do NOT need to take her claims at face value; it is entirely possible their marriage was legally dissolved and she is wrong or lying. That is why you need experienced counsel to help you look into this situation right away. Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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