Recently, one man tried to make an interesting argument in an attempt to avoid the property division process that comes with a Maryland divorce: he claimed that his marriage was never valid in the first place. He made that bold claim due to the fact that he was married to his bride over the telephone via a proxy while he was working in another country than the one where the wedding ceremony took place. Unfortunately for him, however, the court did not accept his argument that the marriage, and thus property division, was not appropriate in this situation.

Apparently, the wedding by proxy took place nearly 20 years ago. To solidify the marriage, the families of each spouse exchanged money, clothing and a goat. The bride then flew to begin life with her new husband, and court records reportedly support that series of events.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the couple’s divorce, negating the man’s assertion that he didn’t know about the marriage. The fact that he renewed wedding vows with the woman in a church, obtained a green card for her and filed joint taxes with her solidified their marriage in the eyes of the law. Further, state law does not prevent Maryland from officially recognizing a marriage that took place by proxy so long as it was valid in that other jurisdiction.

The man will now stand to pay thousands of dollars in alimony, child support and other financial payments as a result of the property division allocated in the couple’s divorce. The Maryland Special Appeals Court’s decision in this case could affect others going forward. No spouse in this state can claim that a marriage wasn’t valid simply because it was conducted by a proxy, providing that the jurisdiction where the marriage was conducted recognizes such a ceremony as legal.

Source: Baltimore Sun, “Marriage over telephone valid, Maryland court rules,” Andrea F. Siegel, Nov. 26, 2012