Telephonic marriage valid; divorce imminent

A Maryland appellate court has upheld the validity of the marriage of a man who participated in his marriage ceremony by telephone. At the time of the ceremony, he worked with an international bank and could not attend his wedding personally. Days after the wedding, his wife joined him in a foreign country.

However, when the bride filed for a Maryland divorce 15 years later, the man claimed he did not realize that they were married. The judge rejected his argument and ordered as part of the divorce that he pay $6,000 a month to his now ex-wife to satisfy alimony, child support and other debts.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals agreed with the judge, noting that the couple had filed joint tax returns and also had at one point renewed their wedding vows in a religious service. The court concluded that even if the ceremony was uncommon, enough evidence existed to establish that the two had in fact made a contract to live as husband and wife. Because they had made that agreement, Maryland divorce law could serve to divide their property and provide for the custody and support of their children.

Maryland law has a fairly long-standing tradition of recognizing both unusual marriage ceremonies and even marriages that would have been illegal had they been performed within this state.

Because Maryland law may treat married couples differently from unmarried couples when a relationship ends, a person who feels the need to get out of a relationship but has some questions about whether he or she is actually “married” to his or her partner may want to speak with a Maryland divorce lawyer about the issue.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Marriage over phone is valid, Md. court rules,” Andrea F. Siegel, Nov. 27, 2012

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