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Court Rules on Common Law Marriage


Whenever people attempt to defraud another, it is a criminal situation, however, when married people defraud each other, it is somehow worse. A New York Family Lawyer said in some cases that reach the Family Court, the lines that define right and wrong can become blurred. This is what happens when people attempt to circumvent any system for their own personal gain.

In 1935, a woman from Turkey and her husband ran a business in Atlanta, Georgia where they purchased oriental carpets from an Iraqi man who was born of Jewish parents. The relationship between the parties was amicable and provided a good working base for all involved. In 1941, the Iraqi man was returning to New York after a sales trip to meet with the couple in Atlanta when he had a bad traffic accident near Folkston, Georgia. Following the accident, the Iraqi man was taken to a hospital in Folkston and then transferred to Emory University Hospital for further treatment. A Nassau County Family Lawyer said the Turkish woman spent many hours assisting the Iraqi man in his recovery. As a result of this close connection, the two developed a strong friendship. When he recovered, the man asked the woman if she was interested in running one of his Hotels in Miami Beach, Florida. She agreed and moved to Miami. In 1945, she divorced her husband and lived in a suite at the hotel that she managed for the Iraqi man.

They soon began a more intimate relationship. The man would visit her frequently at the hotel and was known to sometimes stay over with her at the hotel. In November of 1945, a few months following her divorce, the man bought a house in Miami Beach, Florida and told the woman to redecorate it in her own taste since it would be their marital home. The woman proceeded to redecorate and renovate the house to meet her qualifications for it. In December of 1945, the woman collected the man from the airport after he flew down from New York. They drove to the house where he told her that he loved only her and that he wanted her to be with him for life. She agreed and the following day, the went to the hotel and informed the staff that they had married.

For the next five years the couple lived together as man and wife. A Nassau County Child Support Lawyer said the woman wore a wedding ring and diamond that the man purchased for her. They went to many functions and were introduced frequently as husband and wife. It was not unusual for them to be together and to be introduced together. In court, the woman produced Christmas cards that they had sent out with her using his last name.

In 1954, the man left the woman and told her that since they had not gotten a legal marriage that she was not entitled to any alimony from him. She lived with friends until the case came to court in New York. The man was contacted by the court and he stated that they were never married. When asked why he had allowed the marriage announcement and why they had accepted wedding presents, his only reply was that he had not wanted to embarrass the woman by pointing out that they were living together without the benefit of marriage. The court asked the woman why she thought that they were married. She stated that he had told her that he considered them married, but could not have a wedding announced because his parents are devout Jews and his mother would die if she knew that he was married to a gentile. The court asked him why he did not consider the woman his wife and he stated that they had never married. He also stated that the woman had continued to use her maiden name occasionally throughout the time that they were together.

The woman claims that even though they were not legally married, she believes that the marriage qualifies as legal under the status of common law. The court evaluated the woman’s claim by attempting to prove if the couple were considered by the general society as a whole to be married. Further, in reference to the use of the woman’s maiden name, the court dismissed that argument since it is not uncommon for a businesswoman to use her maiden name even after marriage so as not to confuse her business associates.

The question arises then as to if they entered into a contract between the two of them so as to be considered married under the laws of the state of New York. In order to determine if this was in fact a legally binding contract of marriage, the court asked the woman if the marriage was consummated the night that he told her that he wanted her to be his wife. She stated that they did consummate the marriage on that night. There is further evidence that the woman considered herself married to the man in the announcement that was made to their employees at the hotel the following day. Also, the couple held a wedding party where they introduced themselves as newly married. There was a luncheon for work associates in celebration of their marriage. Following these events, the man purchased the rings for the woman. The rings were of the type commonly worn to declare a married state. The woman assumed the man’s last name for most occasions, only infrequently using her maiden name to sign certain contracts and papers at the hotel.

The woman called 47 witnesses that identified the couple as married. Each person interviewed relayed the same information. All of their friends considered them married. The court then must determine if the words spoken on the night in the house were sufficient to be declared a contract under the law. The court stated that the man’s business was well in excess of one million dollars and that he had not attempted to assist his wife at all in her expenses since leaving her. The court expressed contempt for a man who would attempt to circumvent responsibility by claiming a lack of a piece of paper. The court found that the husband was in fact part of the contract of a marriage. The words spoken were certainly clear enough that anyone hearing them would have considered them a declaration of marriage. Couple this declaration with the purchase of the house and the instructions from the man that the woman was to decorate it to her liking, most people would make the assumption that a marriage contract had been initiated.

The law in this case found that the man was in fact, the husband of the woman. He was found responsible for providing temporary and permanent alimony, suit money and attorneys’ fees. Although the husband thought that he was going to able to circumvent the law by just telling the woman that they were married and conducting a fraud on their friends and family by claiming a marriage without paper. He did not anticipate that a verbal contract of marriage could be just as binding as one with a legal paper.

Stephen Bilkis & Associates is a Family Lawyer with convenient offices throughout New York and the Metropolitan area is available to help you. Divorce Court issues are confusing. Our Divorce lawyers can provide you with advice to guide you through any situation, whether you need an order for protection, have a custody issue, or need assistance with a child support issue.

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