A New Jersey appeals court recently dismissed a case after the defendant claimed the parties did not have a valid marriage. In that case, the plaintiff had filed a complaint about divorce in Middlesex County, and the complaint was subsequently dismissed. The plaintiff filed a second complaint for divorce in Essex County, and the defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that there was no valid marriage between the plaintiff and the defendant. The claim was dismissed without prejudice pursuant to a stipulation of voluntary dismissal executed by the parties’ attorneys.
After the second dismissal, the parties entered into a Settlement Agreement, which addressed the distribution of assets as well as custody and child support. Over two years after the Agreement was signed, the plaintiff filed a motion to reopen the divorce case and enforce the signed Agreement. The defendant argued that the case could not be reopened because there was no underlying divorce case.
The appeals court found that the plaintiff could not enforce the Settlement Agreement by reopening the divorce case, as the case had been dismissed. The court noted that the divorce complaint was dismissed without prejudice—meaning that another complaint could be filed—and thus the complaint could be refiled if a valid marriage existed. In addition, if the parties never had a valid marriage, the plaintiff could enforce the Agreement by filing a complaint in the non-dissolution docket. Therefore, the plaintiff’s motion to reopen his matrimonial case was dismissed.
Valid Marriages in New Jersey
As of December 1, 1939, for a marriage to be valid in New Jersey, the parties must obtain a marriage license prior to the ceremony and the marriage must be solemnized by an authorized person or entity. Any marriage after that date that fails to meet such requirements is invalid. Since that date, common-law marriages are not recognized in the state. A marriage may also be void because a partner was not free to enter into a marriage, for example, because the person was not old enough, was not mentally capable of entering into the marriage, or was already married to another person. In the case of a void marriage, there can be no dissolution of the marriage, because no valid marriage existed. If one of the parties entered into the marriage in good faith, believing that the marriage was valid, that person may be entitled to certain rights that are reserved for married couples. In addition, even an unmarried partner may have the right to financial support, child support, and the distribution of joint property.
Contact a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer for Immediate Assistance
If you see divorce on the horizon, reach out to the Law Office of Jeffrey R. Brown. The process of going through a divorce is always challenging, but it can be made easier. Attorney Brown has extensive experience helping clients understand the process and effectively pursue what is most important to them. To learn more, and to schedule a consultation with an experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer, reach out to the Law Offices of Jeffrey R. Brown at 732-613-0066 today.