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Claiming Marriage Was Never Valid After Divorce

Question: If I don't like the results of my property and debt division after my divorce, can I claim that I was never married to have the division reexamined?

Answer: Probably not. In a recent case from the Idaho Supreme Court called Baird-Sallaz v. Sallaz, Husband and Wife were granted a divorce in 2005. Husband and Wife had a subsequent trial and several post-trial motions that settled the property and debt issues in 2012. Additionally, in 2012, Husband filed for Chapter 7 relief in Bankruptcy. Presumably unsatisfied with the property and debt division in 2012, Husband filed an action asserting that his marriage was never valid. If Husband could establish that his marriage was never valid, then he could prove that the property and debt division would need to be reexamined. A reexamination of the property and debt settlement would likely favor Husband financially. Husband argued that the marriage was invalid because the ceremony was performed by a person that did not have the authority to perform marriages and because no marriage license could be found. Therefore, Husband claimed that because the marriage was invalid, the magistrate court that granted the divorce lacked subject matter jurisdiction to grant the divorce and divide the property and debts.

In formulating an answer in this case, the Supreme Court admited that deficiencies in subject matter jurisdiction can be raised at any time. However, the Court stated that voiding a judgment over subject matter jurisdiction should rarely be done as long as the court has the power to generally adjudicate the issue before it. The Court pointed out that when the parties filed for divorce, Husband had affirmatively requested that he be granted a divorce. It was only when he did not get his desired result that he claimed that he was never married. The Court concluded that a party cannot collaterally attack a judgment based upon jurisdiction only because the party does not like the result. It was clear that Husband was trying to readjudicate the matter by asserting that there were problems with jurisdiction when the divorce was granted. The Court stated that at the beginning of his divorce action, he had an opportunity to claim that he had never been married. After the judgment had been entered, however, it was too late to claim that he had never married in order to change the results of his property and debt settlement.

See: Baird-Sallaz v. Sallaz, 14.17 ISCR 124 (2014).

Categories: Marriage Validity, Divorce
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