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Maryland court upholds divorce for couple married over phone

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has ruled that a man who married his wife over the phone must provide her with spousal and child support upon their divorce. The man reportedly said marriage vows while in a different country than his wife, with his cousin standing in for him. According to court records, the families exchanged marital gifts and the couple met in person several days later. However, the man claimed that he never knew about the marriage when his wife accused him of abuse and filed for divorce 15 years later.

The Maryland court doubted the man's claims, noting that he had obtained a green card for his wife and had filed joint tax returns on their behalf. The couple even renewed their wedding vows at a church. As such, the court decided that while the marriage was unusual, it was valid. It upheld the couples divorce and ordered the man to make $6,000 in monthly child support and alimony payments to his ex-wife.

The court's ruling explained that Maryland law does not expressly bar courts in the state from recognizing a ceremony where one party participates by proxy - or in the manner that occurred here - and the ceremony is valid in another jurisdiction. An attorney who represented the ex-wife explained that the ruling shows Maryland to be in support of marriage, regardless of how it's done.

This marks the latest case in which Maryland courts have granted divorces to couples that may not have legally been able to get married in the state. Previously, the state Court of Appeals approved a divorce for a same-sex couple married in another state, even though Maryland itself does not currently allow same-sex marriages.

Source: Washington Post, "Marriage over phone is valid, Md. Court rules," Andrea F. Siegel, Nov. 27, 2012

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