Divorce and Probate

Multiple Marriages and Probate

Rhonda and Bobby Joe were married in 1995 and had children. After years of marriage, Rhonda told him she could no longer stay with him if he continued his extra-marital affairs. Bobby Joe refused and Rhonda moved out, though they never divorced.

Rhonda moved often, living in several cities in Oklahoma and Kansas. She had two additional children by another father, who were removed from her home by Kansas DHS.

After Bobby Joe and Rhonda separated, Bobby Joe began living with Amy in 2004. Two children were born of this couple. They represented themselves as husband and wife and Bobby Joe regularly came home to Amy and their children.

Rhonda also moved on. She met Jimmy when they both lived in a state-supported shelter as minors. In 2012, they went to Jimmy’s grandparents to tell them they were getting married. They contacted a minister who performed the ceremony that same day.

Afterward, Rhonda removed the wedding ring and placed it, along with the marriage certificate, in the glove compartment. She spoke to Jimmy twice, but never saw him again. She never filed for divorce because she believed the marriage was annulled.

In 2013, Bobby Joe died in a motorcycle accident. The probate court found a common law marriage existed between Bobby Joe and Amy before appointing her as personal representative of Bobby Joe’s estate. Rhonda never received notice of the probate and Amy did not inform the court about Rhonda. She said the court did not ask about Rhonda and she did not raise the issue.  

Rhonda, at trial, testified that she and Bobby Joe met numerous times while they were separated for the purpose of being intimate. Bobby Joe referred to her as his wife and they walked arm in arm, as well as constantly showing affection for one another in public.

The Probate court found that a common law marriage existed between Bobby Joe and Amy. The court determined that Rhonda could not claim to be married to Bobby Joe, even though they never divorced. The court determined that a later marriage is in fact a denial of any prior marriage. Therefore, by her actions, Rhonda could not claim the existence of the first marriage.    

On appeal, the appellate court agreed. In its opinion, the court stated, “If you do not speak when you ought to speak, you shall not speak when you want to speak.”   

The moral of this story is that you should never be married to more than one person at a time. Simply because you don’t believe the marriage wasn’t serious doesn’t mean that it can’t have serious consequences.

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