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Over-the-phone marriage is official according to court

Weddings can take a variety of forms; some are intimate, whereas others have hundreds of guests. Massachusetts residents have probably attended many types of weddings. Though more rare, some weddings even occur over the telephone. This method of entering a marriage may not be very common, but a Maryland court ruled recently that it is just as valid as an in-person ceremony.

This case landed in court after a man contested his wife's divorce filing. He reportedly claimed he "didn't know about the marriage." According to a report, the couple married in 1993 over the phone, as he was a World Bank employee assigned to work in a different African country from where his wife lived. The man apparently said his vows over the phone and listened to the ceremony, where his cousin served as his proxy.

Since their wedding ceremony, this man helped his wife obtain a green card in the United States, jointly filed taxes with her, and the couple even celebrated a vow renewal in a church. However, when his wife filed for divorce after 15 years of marriage and alimony and child support payments were ordered, he suddenly was unaware of his marriage.

Now, a Maryland court has ruled that the telephone marriage was official, so the man is required to make the previously laid out alimony and child support payments.

This ruling could impact future divorce cases. It also provides valuable information about the serious legal nature of marriage. It appears that this man did not think about potential benefits of his marriage being unofficial until he was ordered to make child support and alimony payments.

This situation points out the importance of understanding and accepting all possible results of getting married when signing a marriage license, saying vows, or even committing to a spouse through the telephone. This also applies for signing divorce papers. It is critical that one understands all possible ramifications of signing the legal document, because changing the grounds of the initial agreement later on will likely be very difficult, if not impossible.

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

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