Thursday, June 09, 2022

In re Marriages (Cal. Ct. App. - June 8-9, 2022)

The Discovery Channel has its well-known "Shark Week." By contrast, in the Court of Appeal, it's starting to look like it's "Bigamy Week."

The first of these cases was yesterday, and involved a procedural morass in family court involving the marriage of Samir Elali and Mayssa Marchoud. There were eight months of hearings about precisely who married whom when -- and to what effect -- but the long and short of it was that Samir married someone in California (whose name was Angeles Elali) but then, while still married, married Mayssa in Lebanon. So when Mayssa goes to family court, the trial court bounces her petition, on the grounds that she's not really married since Samir was already married. Bigamy and all. And the Court of Appeal affirms.

(Why you want to get married to someone else after being married for 35 years -- and not divorcing your first spouse -- is beyond me, but that's neither here nor there.)

Then, today, we see yet another published opinion involving bigamy; this time, between Pedro Aviles and Jessica Vulovic. Here, Jessica's married to Alexander, but wants to get divorced, so files a petition for dissolution. But never actually gets divorced. Then, while still married to Alexander, she marries Pedro.

Now, in this one, Jessica says she thought she was actually divorced, even though she wasn't. So after she get told that she's still married (at a child support hearing, no less), she gets actually divorced, and then a year later marries Pedro again, this time in a Catholic church. But they don't actually marry, at least as far as the state's concerned; they never actually get a marriage certificate. And then, six months later, Jessica marries Pedro for a third time, this time at a winery with 200 guests. This time, do they get a marriage certificate? No. They do not.

You'd think that with all these marriages, it would stick, right? Nope. Seven years later, they separate, and Pedro finds out -- for the first time ever -- that Jessica was still married when he married her. (The first time, which was the only "legal" marriage.) So he asks for an annulment, whereas Jessica asks for spousal support.

But this time, the whole "bigamy" thing turns out to be less dispositive. Because the Court of Appeal holds that, bigamy or no, Jessica was at least a putative spouse since she thought (wrongly) that she was not (still) married when she got married, and regardless of the reasonableness of that belief, she's thus entitled to regular old spousal benefits as a putative spouse.

The first case comes from San Bernardino County. The second one comes from Riverside County.

Who knew that bigamy was such a big thing in the Inland Empire?