First Bigamous Marriage Void, So Second “Bigamous” Marriage Valid

IRMO Seaton (2011 DJDAR 16342), 3rd App. Dist., November 8, 2011

First Bigamous Marriage Void, So Second “Bigamous” Marriage Valid

Patricia was married to Richard (#1) when she married Henry (#2) during a weekend trip to Reno in May, 1988, just ten days she had gotten a restraining order against him.  A restraining order she obtained with the help of her then just divorced love interest Jeffrey (#3).

After seventeen years of marriage, Jeffrey sought a Judgment of Nullity claiming that Patricia’s Nevada marriage to Henry had not been nullified.  Relying on Williams, (2004) 120 Nev. 559, the trial court found Patricia’s marriage to Jeffrey void because the marital relationship with Henry had not been legally severed (and the trial court did not declare the Henry marriage void because it lacked personal jurisdiction over Henry).

The Court of Appeal reversed because Patricia’s bigamous marriage to Henry was void at its inception under Family Code § 2201.  Therefore when Patricia obtained a Judgment of Dissolution against first husband Richard in December, 1988, her subsequent Jeffrey marriage in June, 1991 was valid.  In both California and Nevada, an annulment decree from “husband #2 was not required because a bigamous marriage is void – “not merely voidable at the option of one of the parties” – even in the absence of an annulment decree. Lockyer v. San Francisco (2004) 33 Cal.4th 1055, 1114 (at the time same sex marriages void) and McClintock (2006) 122 Nev. 842, 845 (despite the dicta in Williams requiring annulment proceeding to sever legal ties).  The Henry marriage was not a voidable marriage but a void marriage, and did not require any judicial declaration of nullity.  So Patricia’s putative spouse contentions under Family Code § 2251 were not reached and she benefits from her deception.