It may be a big lie, but it isn’t quite fraud p2

We are turning back to our Aug. 28 post and the case about a woman who petitioned the court to invalidate (annul) her marriage on the grounds of fraud. When we left off, the Cook County Circuit Court had granted her petition, but the court of appeals overturned that decision. The respondent may have withheld certain information from the petitioner, but that information did not go to the “essentials of marriage,” the statutory standard for fraud. No fraud, no grounds for annulment.

What this man had not told his wife-to-be was that he was already married. How was concealing the existence of a wife still living not an essential of marriage?

In this case, timing was everything. The couple were married in a religious ceremony — that is, without a marriage license — in April 2007. The legal marriage did not take place for another three months, on July 23, 2007. While the man claimed the delay was the result of his not having his immigration papers with him at the time, he was in fact working on ending his legal marriage to another woman.

The divorce came through on July 7. That, of course, meant that he was free to enter into a valid marriage with the petitioner. The divorce was final, too, before he applied for the marriage license.

It took some time, though, for the petitioner to learn her husband had been married before — three times before, as it turned out. According to the court’s opinion, he deliberately concealed the marriages even when questioned by immigration authorities in 2011. The petitioner requested the trial court to declare the marriage invalid in 2013.

The appellate court found that there was no fraud because the religious ceremony was not a valid, legal marriage, even if the petitioner believed it to be one. No marriage, no fraud, and, without fraud, no annulment. Divorce is the only way to dissolve this legal marriage.

A divorce could involve custody, support or property division. An annulment would have avoided all of these. Still, while her husband’s lies may seem particularly hurtful, the courts have long held that there is no fraud in concealing a past marriage from a new spouse.

Source: In re Marriage of Igene, 35 N.E.3d 1125 (Ill. App. Ct. 2015), via WestlawNext

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