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Divorce without telling the other spouse is likely null and void

When an affluent person wants to block a prospective spouse from obtaining an interest in his or her assets, the common legal device in Florida is to use is a prenuptial agreement. These are enforceable contracts in the event of a later divorce, especially when they are drawn up properly and when full disclosure of assets is provided to the less wealthy person. But what happens if a marriage is entered into without a prenuptial agreement?

In that event, the normal laws of marital property in Florida or other states with similar statutes will apply. Any assets obtained during the marriage, whether titled individually or jointly, are considered marital property subject to equitable division by the court. With respect to separate property owned prior to the marriage, only the increased value that accrues during the marriage is subject to equitable division.

These rules were apparently not pleasing to one man who had married a woman 30 years his junior. According to papers recently filed by the wife in court, her husband, who is now 90, decided to obtain the effects of a prenuptial agreement by an underhanded method. Unknown to her, he allegedly filed for and obtained a Dominican divorce just four months after they married.

After doing that, however, he reportedly maintained the guise of a happy marriage for the next 20 years, while they raised a son and lived a financially well-do-to life. The wife did not know the deception until she recently discovered her name missing from a tax bill. She is now asking the court to declare the Dominican divorce null and void. She likely has a good chance to do that based on the reported facts.

Such divorces are well-known for being unreliable. Notice to the other spouse is often missing, which is a fatal defect in Florida to recognizing a foreign divorce decree. Courts here have generally struck down such divorces where evidence of due notice is missing. The bottom line is probably that the husband went through his elaborate ruse in vain. In Florida, this type of foreign divorce is likely void and unenforceable, making the marriage effective and uninterrupted.

Source: New York Post, "Husband secretly divorced wife after wedding 'to protect assets'", Kathianne Boniello, Jan. 24, 2016

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The Law Office of Gustavo E. Frances, P.A.
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