ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District has reversed a lower court's decision to void a marriage sought by a husband who learned that his wife was still legally married to someone else when they tied the knot 12 years ago.
In a decision filed June 30, a panel of judges held that a Franklin County court erred in voiding the marriage of the parties identified in court documents as D.L.H., the husband, and J.D.H., the wife, and remanded the case for the court to hear the wife's petition for dissolution of a valid Texas marriage.
According to background information in the ruling, the couple got married in Las Vegas in July 2005, and afterward returned to Texas where the husband worked. After two weeks, they left and moved to Colorado, then Michigan. However, at the time they got married, the wife "mistakenly believed" that her previous marriage to James Anderson had been dissolved as of July 30, 2004, in Texas, the ruling states. Her divorce from Anderson did not become official until April 20, 2006.
In 2011, D.L.H. and J.D.H. moved to Missouri but later separated, and, in 2012, when the Missouri Department of Social Services initiated a paternity action to declare that the husband was the father of their children, he learned that the wife was still married to Anderson when they wed in 2005.
The husband sought to have to marriage declared void; the wife countered with a petition for divorce.
After Franklin County Judge David Tobben declared the marriage void under Missouri and Texas law, the wife appealed. She argued that their marriage was valid pursuant to three separate provisions of Texas law and that Tobias did not find that she induced the husband to marry her by fraud, a prerequisite to declaring a marriage void, the ruling states.
"As we find Wife's Point I dispositive, we need not address her second point on appeal," the appeals court ruled.
The three-judge panel that included Judges Lisa Page, Robert Clayton III and Mary Hoff, found that there was "ample evidence" showing the parties had an "informal" agreement to be married, "notwithstanding their formal marriage ceremony that took place in Las Vegas in 2005.”
"Husband's request to declare his marriage void is nothing more than an attempt to achieve a common-law divorce, which is not recognized in Texas," the judges held.