Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

No excuse for not paying alimony

As our Utah readers may know, divorce and everything that comes along with it can sometimes be a messy situation. A Maryland man found out last month that no matter how unorthodox of a marriage ceremony you participate in, you can't escape alimony and other court proceedings in the event of a divorce.

The couple married in the Congo in 1993 and declared each other as husband and wife for more than 18 years. However, recently the woman filed for divorce, also seeking child support, property and alimony. Upon receiving this news, the man claimed that he would not be paying her anything, as he was unaware of the marriage and that it was not real.

Here's the twist: the man was not actually present for the couple's wedding. The atypical ceremony, in which a dowry of clothing, a live goat and $200 was exchanged, took place while he was away on business. The ceremony was performed with the man on the phone while his cousin reportedly stood in for him. Though it was a unique situation, the marriage was recognized as valid in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Furthermore, the state of Maryland recognized the marriage to be valid when the couple renewed their vows in Arlington a year later. According to court documents, the man helped his then-wife achieve permanent residency status, told immigration services that they were in fact married and also listed her as the beneficiary of his life insurance.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that no matter how unconventional the marriage ceremony, their union was and is recognized by the state. As a result, this man is not off the hook for paying alimony to his soon-to-be ex.

Source:, "Wedding absence doesn't get Maryland man off hook for alimony, court says," Brian Hughes, Nov. 24, 2012

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