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Court says telephonic marriage ceremony was valid

Colorado readers may be interested in the creative argument a Maryland man came up with recently in his divorce case. He argued that his wife was not entitled to spousal support and child support because the couple was never validly married in the first place. He argued that the marriage ceremony was conducted over the telephone and should not be recognized by the courts in Maryland.

The marriage ceremony took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but the groom was not present. He was working in another African country at the time, so his cousin stood in for him as his proxy at the ceremony. The groom listened to the ceremony and made his vows over the telephone. As in other traditional African marriages, gifts were exchanged by the families, including a goat, money and clothes. The bride traveled to her husband a few days later.

The Maryland court ruled that the marriage was valid, noting that Maryland law does not prevent Maryland from recognizing a marriage that was valid somewhere else. The court noted that there were precedents for Maryland recognizing marriages that were valid where they were entered into, even if they would be illegal in Maryland. It ruled in favor of the wife and said the man must pay nearly $6,000 in alimony and child support. The court did not decide whether a telephonic marriage was legal in Maryland; it ruled only that Maryland would recognize such a marriage if it was legal in the place the marriage took place.

Like most states, Colorado will recognize almost any valid marriage from another state or another country. The most notable exception is same-sex marriages; under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, states like Colorado which do not allow same-sex marriage are not required to recognize such a marriage entered into elsewhere.

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

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