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My brother married a woman three months ago and just found out he was never divorced from his 1st wife.

Brooklyn, NY |
Filed under: Annulment of marriage

my brother and his first wife have been separated for 20 years and told him he was divorced. He got remarried three months ago and was told this week that his first wife never divorced him. Is the second marriage valid?

Attorney Answers 5

  1. Your brother needs to see a matrimonial attorney very soon. He needs to check the records in the Office of the Clerk of the county where he lived at the time that he thinks the divorce was done. If there is no record of his divorce than he has some real problems.

    You brother should consult with a local attorney who concentrates in divorce matters. On-line advice is no substitute for an in-person attorney consultation.

    Attorney at Law
    Valatie, New York

    The information offered at this website is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for legal advice regarding your individual situation. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.

  2. If your brother was never divorced then his second marriage is not valid. He should consult with a divorce attorney and file for divorce immediately.

  3. Technically, the 2nd marriage is void. He will need to commence a proper divorce with his first wife. I would recommend, as odd as it may seem, that your brother obtain a new marriage license in connection with his second wife once this issue is resolved. Certainly seek legal counsel for further guidance.

  4. Told by whom? First, your brother must confirm the status of the first marriage. If paperwork was started, it is possible that a divorce was granted on default. If he discovers that the first marriage was not disolved, then the second marriage is void, and your brother must file and be granted a divorce from his first wife before he can marry the woman he wants to be married to now. I suggest your brother consult a local attorney to help expedite the process if he finds that the first marriage was never ended.

    Ms. Brown may be reached at 718-878-6886 during regular business hours, or anytime by email at: All of Ms. Brown’s responses to questions posted on AVVO are intended as general information based upon the facts stated in the question, and are provided for educational purposes of the public, not any specific individual, and her response to the question above is not legal advice and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. Ms. Brown is licensed to practice law in New York. If you would like to obtain specific legal advice about this issue, you must contact an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your state.

  5. Under the facts as you state them, No. He is not legally married to his second wife until he is legally divorced from his first. Usually he would have been required to show a divorce decree when he applied for the marriage certificate, unless he stated that he had NOT been previously married. That usually prevents these things from happening.

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