Pinkhasov appealed FC’s Order holding that he entered a legally valid de facto marriage with Petocz, arguing that parties were never validly married because they did not meet requirement of Kentucky statutes for same and that “de facto” marriage is synonymous with “common law” marriage which is prohibited in Kentucky.
The parties, both foreign citizens, due to their concerns with immigration and the future potential for gaining citizenship through marriage to American citizens, opted to marry each other but not obtain a marriage certificate. Instead, they participated in a purely religious marriage ceremony celebrated by their rabbi before a gathering of family and friends. At their request, their rabbi solemnized the marriage ceremony solely in accordance with the laws of their Jewish faith, but with no reference to, witnessing, or certification of, a civil marriage. Also at their direction, their rabbi did not sign or file certification or recording of any marriage ceremony with any civil authority. They subsequently lived together as a family and Petocz gave birth to a son. Prior to the demise of their relationship, they held themselves out to their community as husband and wife.
Based on these facts, FC determined the parties had established a valid “de facto marriage” under Kentucky law.
In Kentucky, a legally valid civil marriage unites one man and one woman in a particular state, condition, or relationship for life pursuant to all statutory requirements as interpreted and applied by relevant case law. Kentucky law favors marriage, and where there is evidence of a marriage ceremony, the marriage is presumed to be valid. However, if there is evidence of invalidity, the presumption disappears and the issues must be decided on the evidence.
KRS 402.080 requires that the parties intending to marry must first obtain a marriage license from the county clerk and then must be married by a person believed in good faith to be authorized to perform the marriage. The parties entering marriage must strictly comply with these requirements in order to have a valid marriage. Here, though a purely religious marriage ceremony was solemnized by the parties’ rabbi, the uncontroverted proof established that no marriage license was ever obtained, and CA held that, on that basis alone, any presumption of a legally valid civil marriage is entirely negated.
CA held that a “de facto marriage” is synonymous with a common-law marriage. Kentucky does not grant legal recognition to common-law marriages formed in Kentucky. Thus, CA held that no legally valid civil marriage was ever established between the parties simply because of their religious expressions, public representations, and living arrangements. CA noted that Kentucky’s refusal to recognize common-law marriage may not be circumvented by simply appending to that relationship the alternative legal appellation of “de facto marriage.” Reversed and remanded.
Reid (formerly Age) v. Age, et al, No. 2009-CA-002173-MR
Reid filed a petition for dissolution of a 33-year marriage in November, 2006. After entry of the decree in June, 2008 the parties filed a settlement agreement which had been executed in April, 2008.
More than a year after the decree was entered, Age filed a motion to set aside the decree based on Reid’s statements in obtaining a theological annulment by the Roman Catholic Church. That motion was denied. In August, 2009, Age filed a CR 60.02 motion to set aside the judgment on the grounds of mistake, fraud, and new evidence. On September 3, 2009 the TC entered an order denying the post-judgment motion and also denied Age’s subsequent motion to reconsider.
Reid’s cross-appealed on the issues of maintenance and attorney fees. Reid never earned more than $7,000 annually, while Age earned $188,000 in 2008. She contended that after consideration of the relevant statutory criteria, the court’s award of maintenance was inadequate. She further maintained that the court should have made findings before ordering her to pay additional fees to her attorney and also when the TC denied reimbursement by Age to Reid of these attorney fees, which she claimed was an abuse of discretion.
By agreed order, temporary maintenance was set at $750.00 per month. Under the terms of their settlement agreement, Reid waived maintenance but negotiated for one-half of Age’s pension payment which she expected would be approximately $2,300 per month. In an addendum to the April, 2008 agreement, Age agreed to pay Reid $2,300 per month until she began to receive pension payments from Abbot Laboratories pension administrator. The court ordered the parties to enter into a QDRO to facilitate Reid’s receipt of pension benefits.
At a hearing in January, 2009 it was discovered that Reid’s pension benefits would only be $953.74 per month. This gave rise to continued dispute about the issue of spousal support.
On October 22, 2009, TC entered an order finding the settlement agreement unconscionable because of the waiver of spousal support and the pension benefit insufficient to meet the minimum needs. TC awarded maintenance until Age’s retirement when Reid will be entitled to one-half Age’s pension.
Reid’s former counsel filed an attorney’s lien for unpaid fees and TC ordered Reid to pay the fees in installments. TC denied Reid reimbursement of any fees from Age based upon her assertion that his post-judgment motion was frivolous and vexatious.
Regarding the validity of the divorce decree, the CA found no evidence to suggest the parties were not lawfully married. The Catholic Church’s determination under ecclesiastical law does not alter the legal effort of a civil marriage. None of the reasons to invalidate a marriage as set out in KRS 403.120 applied in this case.
CA held that Age’s CR 60.02 motion was not timely filed, there was no evidence of civil fraud and the Constitution prohibits an interface between church and state law.
Reid claimed the TC abused its discretion when it set maintenance at $2,300 per month to be reduced when Reid’s pension benefits commenced. The CA found that the TC made relevant findings and used the factors enumerated in the statute to determine the maintenance award.
The CA reviewed Reid’s appeal of the issue of reimbursement of attorney fees despite procedural infirmities regarding the notice of appeal. Holding that a TC’s decision regarding KRS 403.220 may only be overturned if an abuse of discretion occurred, the CA found no indication the TC’s ruling was arbitrary, unreasonable, unfair, or unsupported by sound legal principles. To Reid’s contention that the TC failed to make adequate findings, the CA disagreed and found that the trial judge exhaustively covered the division of assets and did not omit any findings essential to its judgment.
Some quotes from Tresa Baldas,The National Law Journal, October 29, 2007, online:
Family law attorneys are urging couples to steer clear of Internet-ordained ministers when seeking an officiate to perform their nuptials.
Their warnings follow a recent Pennsylvania court decision in which a judge declared a marriage invalid because the couple had been married by an Internet-ordained minister. The court ruled that the officiate was unauthorized under state law to perform a wedding. Heyer v. Hollerbush, No. 2007 SU 2132 Y08 (York Co., Pa., Ct. C.P).
The ruling, divorce attorneys claim, sets a dangerous precedent in encouraging other unhappy partners to seek similar paths to avoid alimony and property division.
In other words, a spouse who wants an easy out from a marriage and doesn't want to pay alimony or split property could simply argue that the wedding wasn't valid, so neither is the marriage.
"If this ruling holds, and if it spreads, anyone who was married by an online preacher ... can get an easy way out," said Lynn Gold-Bikin, managing partner of the family law practice of Philadelphia's Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen.
"Should that person be able to go into a court and say, 'This isn't legitimate. Oops. I don't want the marriage anymore.'? I don't think so," she said.
Seattle-based Universal Life Church, the largest provider of online ordination, claims to have ordained more than 20 million ministers through the mail or online since 1959. In the past three years, the group said online ordinations have increased 100 percent, but would not give actual numbers.
Other groups offering instant ordination include the Progressive Life Church and Ordination.org.
Currently, Internet-ordained ministers are legal in all 50 states, except for certain counties in Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where the practice has faced legal challenges in the past decade.
A Case for Strengthening Marriage, By Hon. Leah Ward Sears, Chief Justice, Georgia Supreme Court The Washington Post, Monday, October 30, 2006; Page A17 is set out below in its entirety. In the coming weeks and months we will report on initiatives, some local, focusing on strengthening marriage, funded by new federal grants. The AAML has also spent considerable energy and resources on strengthening marriage, which we have and will continue to report. We will also explore over the long term what constitutes a family. While traditional marriage makes things tidy for our court system and represents an ideal for most people, in the face of changing times, we must also recognize the changing definition of family and how future generations of children can thrive.
"For the first time in history, less than half of U.S. households are headed by married couples. And on Sept. 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that almost 36 percent of all births are the result of unmarried childbearing, the highest percentage ever recorded.
In family law, as in the rest of American society, there is an intensifying debate about how we should respond to this kind of news. Should law and society actively seek new ways to support marriage? Or should family law strive to be marriage-neutral by providing more rights and benefits to its alternatives, such as cohabitation and single parenthood?
Some family law experts argue that our most pressing need is to find ways to equally support a wide variety of family forms. For example, the respected American Law Institute, an organization of judges, lawyers and legal scholars that periodically drafts model laws and other proposals for legal reform, has proposed a new set of laws that promotes this "family diversity model." In "Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution," some ALI scholars argue that family law should focus less on trying to channel people into marriage and more on being "fair" to people in different relationships -- in other words, that it should take families as it finds them.
I am not a law professor. But from where I sit as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, a family law that fails to encourage marriage ignores the fact that marriage has long been associated with an impressively broad array of positive outcomes for children and adults alike. Experts who contend that we need to move "beyond marriage" say they are only responding to the facts. But here is one major fact: High rates of family fragmentation hurt children.
For example, studies have consistently shown that children raised outside marriage suffer disproportionately from physical and mental illness; are more likely to drop out of school, abuse drugs or