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One Woman, Ten Marriages

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

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In Georgia, a person can only enter into the contract of marriage if he/she: (1) is of sound mind, (2) is at least 18 years old (or is at least 16 with parental consent), (3) has no living spouse or previous undissolved marriage, and (4) is not related to his/her prospective spouse by blood or marriage. O.C.G.A. § 19-3-2. These prerequisites to a valid marriage are similar in every state. Still, they are violated fairly often, which will deem the marriage invalid.

For example, a woman in New York is facing felony charges for marrying ten different men – and only divorcing one of them. New York Woman Marries 10 Times, Only Got Divorce Once: DA, by Tara Fowler,, April 10, 2015. Liana Barrientos obtained New York marriage licenses for each of her marriages, but her scam was only uncovered after she filed her tenth marriage license. Barrientos is now being charged with filing fraudulent marriage licenses since, obviously, she knew that she had not been divorced before filing for each subsequent license. According to the article, it is unclear at this time whether the husbands will also face charges.

In Georgia, a marriage of persons unable to contract (such as by having a previous undissolved marriage) is void. O.C.G.A. § 19-3-5(a). Though this case is in New York, it is likely that that state has similar prerequisites to divorce as Georgia. As such, in this case, the only valid marriage would be Barrientos’ first or second one. If the one divorce was after the first marriage, then her second marriage would be valid. However, if the one divorce was not the first marriage, then the first marriage still stands and no subsequent marriage would be valid.

If Barrientos is interested in actually remaining married to any of these men, she may have a silver lining. In Georgia, if a marriage is void because of a previous undissolved marriage, “after removal of the impediment to marriage, a subsequent free and voluntary consent and ratification of the marriage accompanied by cohabitation as husband and wife shall likewise render the marriage valid.” O.C.G.A. § 19-3-5(b). Thus, if Barrientos obtains a valid divorce from the one valid marriage, she can ratify whichever marriage she chooses so long as her husband voluntarily consents and the parties live together as husband and wife. Unfortunately for Barrientos, this may be impossible, as it looks like she may be cohabitating in jail for awhile.


The Effect of Employment on Divorce

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

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According to a new study concentrating on the impact of spousal employment on divorce suggests that there is a strong link between the husband’s employment status and the success of the marriage. The study, entitled “She Left, He Left: How Employment and Satisfaction Effect Men’s and Women’s Decisions to Leave Marriages,” which was published by the American Journal of Sociology, was conducted by Liana Sayer of Ohio State University.

Contrary to popular belief, the study finds that a woman’s employment status has no significant effect on the likelihood that her husband will decide to leave the marriage. Although an employed woman is more likely to initiate divorce proceedings than an unemployed woman, according the the study, the decision to leave the marriage only comes when such a woman reports being highly unsatisfied what the marriage. Additionally, even though a woman’s likelihood of initiating divorce proceedings increase if she is employed, the fact that a woman is employed does not increase the likelihood that her husband will decide to leave the marriage. According to the study, a woman’s employment (or lack thereof) has no real effect or her husband’s decision to leave the marriage.

On the other hand, Sayer’s study finds that a man’s employment does have a significant impact on his decision to leave the marriage. For men, lack of employment not only increases the chances that his wife will initiate divorce, but the likelihood that he will decide to leave the marriage also increases. Surprisingly, the study reveals that even men who are relatively happy in their marriages are more likely to leave if they are not employed. According to Sayer, this result may be explained by the fact that a marriage in which the man does not work “does not look like what [men] think a marriage is supposed to.”  What this research tends to show is that although it has become more socially acceptable for women to seek employment in lieu of remaining in the domestic realm, it has not yet become as socially acceptable for men to be unemployed.

Should I Tell My Spouse I Cheated?

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

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As Atlanta divorce attorneys, it is not uncommon for us to see marriages irreparably damaged when one spouse reveals his or her affair to the other spouse. With the knowledge that revealing a prior affair may potentially end their marriage, many wonder whether it is best to be honest with their spouse about the affair or continue to conceal the affair in order to spare their spouse’s feelings and save the relationship. Although many family counselors and relationship experts would suggest that honesty between spouses is the best way to strengthen a relationship, there are some relationship experts who would argue that honest may not always be the best policy when it comes to an affair.

According to well-known relationship and intimacy experts, Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Dr. Scott Haltzman state that in many instances it may be better not to reveal an affair, especially if the affair is long over. Their reasoning stems from the thought that the marriage will likely not benefit from telling the truth. These experts also suggest that if the affair must be revealed, the best course of action may be to seek marriage counseling to determine if the marriage can be saved. Regardless of this debate between experts concerning whether honesty is indeed the best policy when it comes to infidelity, determining how to approach this difficult subject is a very personal decision. If you are faced with such a decision, it is best to seek the guidance of an individual therapist or counselor who can work with you on how to proceed in your particular situation.

Prenuptial Agreements on the Rise Nationwide

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

The connotation that prenuptial agreements are legal tools that are only useful to the wealthy is still widely held. However, according to a survey of several family law attorneys nationwide, it appears that this view is dissipating and prenuptial agreements are gaining more and more popularity nationwide. According to a survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), 63% of the divorce and family law attorneys report seeing an increase in clientele seeking prenuptial agreements within the last three to five years. Specifically, many attorneys reported seeing a 46% increase it the number of women requesting prenuptial agreements.

This increase in the interest and the instance of couples seeking prenuptial agreements prior to marriage may be due to several factors such as the current state of the economy, the trend of individuals tending to wait until later in life to marry and society’s increasing acceptance of prenuptial agreements. Regardless of the rationale explaining the recent upsurge in the popularity of prenuptial agreements, as Georgia divorce attorneys we suggest that any individual or couple considering entering into a prenuptial agreement seek independent legal representation to discuss the merits and possible drawbacks of a prenuptial agreement in the context of their specific situation.

Financial Infidelity

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Infidelity is one of the leading factors that lead to divorce in Georgia and nationwide. However, romantic infidelity is not the only sort of unfaithfulness that may lead to the dissolution of a marriage. Financial infidelity may also have a disastrous effect on a marriage.

The concept of financial infidelity may seem like a foreign one at first blush, but when you consider it, financial fidelity is often viewed by many as just as important to romantic or emotional fidelity. Trust is a vital part of any healthy relationship, and once that has been broken, regardless of how it has been broken, the relationship will suffer.  In a marriage, one of the biggest elements of that trust is with money. You and your spouse work hard, and you both expect to share the resources in some ways that benefit you both. But, when one spouse discovers that the other has been making financial moves that undermine the goals mutually agreed upon by both spouses, it can be a very hard pill to swallow.

Financial infidelity can come in all shapes and forms such as one spouse spending far more money than his or her partner imagined, racking up bills and quietly paying them out of the shared checking account, or even worse, a situation where one spouse is using marital funds to finance an extramarital affair unbeknownst to the other spouse. If you find yourself in a situation such as the ones described above, below are a few steps that you should consider going forward:

Step 1: Decide what you want from the situation. First, cool down and determine what outcome is most desirable and how you and your spouse can potentially work together to achieve that outcome.

Step 2: Ask yourself why your partner is doing this. Is it addiction, an affair, or is your spouse simply refusing to connect his or her spending to the goals you have together? Your ultimate solution may very well depend on the actual root of the financial infidelity.

Does your partner perhaps not agree with those goals you share?

Step 3: Have the conversation. Calmly share your concerns with your spouse and allow him to her to air their position. Try your best not to get angry. But if emotions get out of hand, simply end the conversation and give the situation more thought until both you and your spouse cool down. If despite several attempts at productive discussion, you and your spouse are still unable to reach an acceptable conclusion, it may be an indication of deeper problems in your marriage. If this is so, consulting with an experienced family law attorney may help you determine what steps you should take to ensure you and everything you have worked hard for are protected.

Should I Confront My Spouse’s Lover?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Post affair, the other woman (or man) is likely the object of several of your most intense negative emotions. You may be wondering; “Who is this person?” “Why are they doing this?” “What does this person have that I don’t?” and “Should I confront them about the affair?”

Whether or not to confront your spouse’s lover after discovering the infidelity is a deeply personal decision. However, if you are considering confronting your spouse’s affair partner, you should seriously consider the following:

  • Why? – What are your motives? Do you desire to confront the other man or woman in an effort to end the affair, or are you looking for an apology? Regardless of your motivations, please know that you will likely be disappointed. Remember, especially if this person knew your spouse was married, it is very likely that he or she has no sympathy for you. Before seeking to confront your spouse’s lover, consider the possibility that such a meeting may actually do more harm than good.
  • They may be crazy – Safety first. Regardless of whether you know the person your spouse is cheating with, no one likes to be confronted. Especially in cases such as this, individuals tend to react severely. Please, don’t needlessly risk your safety.
  • Don’t expect an apology – As mentioned above, if your goal in seeking to confront your spouse’s lover is to seek an apology, stop now. It is very likely you will not get one. In fact, it is not uncommon for the lovers of adulterous spouses to actually blame the injured spouse for pushing the cheating spouse away.

Where does your spouse stand? – Is the affair still ongoing, or has it ended? If the affair is still ongoing, there is a risk that confronting the lover may only add fuel to the fire. Although this may be hard to phantom, confronting your spouse’s lover may be an ego boost to your spouse. Please save yourself this humiliation. Although it may be tempting, it is often the case that the answer to the above posed question is a resounding “NO!” It usually isn’t worth it.

Cheating Spouse’s Guide to Rebuilding Marriage Post Adultery

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

You’ve cheated. You are laden with feelings of guilt and despair, and desperately want to come clean with your spouse. But, you’re sure that if you do, your marriage will never be the same, or worse, your spouse will divorce you. So, what do you do? First, realize that your marriage will not be the same. Upon learning of your affair, your spouse will be consumed with your affair. They will want to know who, when and most importantly, why. Second, try your best to be understanding. Your spouse is hurt, confused and feels betrayed, so don’t expect an easy resolution. If you want to rebuild your marriage post affair, take a look at the advice outlined below on how to work with your wife/husband to save your marriage after the trauma of an affair.

  • Your spouse will be angry. Grin and bear it. Try your best not to reciprocate with anger.
  • Expect for your spouse to distrust you for a while. Do whatever is in your power to show them you deserve to be trusted. Remember, you have betrayed their trust, and you will have to earn it back.
  • Save your spouse from the details of the affair. Even if they demands that you disclose details of the affair, or details regarding your lover’s appearance, resist. The occurrence of the affair has hurt them enough; spare your spouse the trauma of having mental images of your affair replaying in their mind.
  • Apologize, apologize, apologize.
  • Stop the affair. To save your marriage, you will have to be committed. Not only must you be committed to saving it, you must be committed to your spouse as well.

Saving your marriage is possible, but it is going to take a lot of work from both you and your spouse. You both have to want it.

My Spouse Cheated. Should I Seek Divorce?

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

The decision whether to stay or seek a divorce is a very personal decision, and it is one that only you can make. If you have recently discovered that your spouse has had an affair, it is likely that you are coping with a number of different emotions and thoughts. You may be wondering whether you could ever forgive him or her, whether your marriage can survive this traumatic event, or whether you should ever trust your spouse again.

It is important for you to know that after an affair you should not make any hasty decisions regarding the future of your marriage, as any decision made will be fueled by emotion and likely not well thought out. Although it may be difficult to imagine doing so, especially since this person has caused you so much pain, you should seek to communicate with your spouse. One very effective way to communicate with your spouse post-affair is via family therapy or marriage counseling. Seeking counseling after an affair will allow you to communicate your feeling to your spouse and it will allow you both to discuss the future of your relationship. Additionally, your therapist or counselor will work with you to determine whether your marriage can and should be saved or if divorce is actually the answer. Divorce isn’t always the answer. But, if your marriage has suffered irreparable damage due to adultery, or other marital woes, we at Meriwether & Tharp are here for you.

Asset Protection Alternatives to Prenuptial Agreements

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Prenuptial agreements, otherwise known as antenuptial agreements or prenups, are becoming increasingly popular as several individuals are postponing marriage until later in life and often after amassing personal wealth and significant separate assets. However, as prenups become more popular, they are also garnering a bad rap. Among couples seeking to wed, prenup is often viewed as a dirty word because it suggest to some that the party suggesting it is planning for divorce instead of focusing on the marriage.  Because of this, many chose not to discuss prenuptial agreements in order to avoid conflict.

But, just because the topic of prenuptial agreements may be a touchy one doesn’t mean that a future spouse seeking to protect his or her separate assets in the event of divorce are out of luck. There are alternatives to prenuptial agreements that may allow an individual to ensure that his or her separate property is protected in the event of divorce, and these alternatives do not require their future spouse’s consent or agreement.

Keeping separate property separate.

One of the simplest ways of ensuring that any separate property you have obtained prior to marriage is maintaining the separate nature of this property after marriage. This may sound simple, but during the course of marriage, especially a long term marriage, maintaining separate accounts and separate assets may be extremely difficult. For this reason, many individuals look to the options below in lieu of prenuptial agreements.


A trust is a relationship created at the direction of an individual, where that individual entrusts one or more people, often referred to as trustees, to hold the individual’s property subject to certain duties, and to use and protect that property for the benefit of others. Trusts may either be used by the family of a future spouse to protect an inheritance or family assets in the event of divorce, or a trust may be used by a future spouse to protect his or her individual assets. Trusts offer asset protection in the event of divorce, because once money or property has been placed in trust, it is deemed to be the property of the trust for legal purposes. If a spouse does not legally own property, it generally may not be subject to equitable distribution upon divorce. There are several types of trusts, and there are very stringent procedures that must be adhered to in order to ensure a trust is validly created and effective. If you are looking for an effective method of protecting your assets upon divorce, a trust may be a good option. Speak with a family law attorney for more information and details concerning how to structure your financial affairs prior to marriage, in order to protect your separate assets in the event of divorce.

Is Your Spouse’s Income Hurting Your Marriage?

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Does your husband make less money than you? Does your wife have a higher income? If you are a husband or wife who answered yes to either of these questions, your spouse’s income may be hurting your marriage. When thinking about the circumstances that may potentially lead to divorce in Georgia, a spouse’s income may not seem like the most detrimental factor in a marriage. However, the amount of income your spouse earns in relation to your own income, may be a contributing factor to your spouse’s marital dissatisfaction.

Although it may not be entirely politically correct to say, who brings home the bacon really does matter. According to a study conducted in 2009 by Cornell University entitled “The Impact of Relative Earnings Among Dual-Earner Couples on Career Satisfaction and Family Satisfaction,” men feel more family and marital satisfaction when they earn more money than their spouse. Alternatively, when a husband earns less money than their spouse, they may feel unhappy in their marriage and act accordingly. The findings of this study with regards to men are buttressed by information from the American Sociological Association. According to the ASA, a man whose wife is the sole earner, is five times more likely to cheat on her than a man whose wife earns about the same as him.

The same principle applies to women, but in reverse. According to the same study, wives who earn more money than their husbands are significantly more likely to experience marital dissatisfaction than wives whose husbands are the primary breadwinners. However, wives may be less likely to indicate their dissatisfaction to their husbands in order to avoid confrontation or potentially emasculating their husbands. And, as is often the case with a failure to communicate within a marriage, this lack of communication, coupled with the frustration caused by the economic dynamic of the marriage may ultimately result in divorce.