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A wife, who has taken advantage of the “divorce” that her husband told her he had bought, cannot now claim the benefits of a marriage which she herself has repudiated by her subsequent conduct. The wife’s abandonment of the marriage relationship operates to estop her from asserting rights under that marriage.
Decedent Nathaniel Butler, Jr. and appellant Georgia Mae were married in 1946. They lived together for a short time and then separated in 1947. Although the marriage was never legally dissolved, Nathaniel told Georgia Mae that he had "bought" a divorce. Georgia Mae believed him. Thereafter, Nathaniel and appellant both remarried. At some point appellant learned that she and Nathaniel were never actually divorced. Six years after Nathaniel died, appellant filed a petition for administration of Nathaniel’s estate. The trial court denied the petition and found that appellant was estopped from asserting her rights as a widow. Appellant challenged the decision.
Under the circumstances, was the appellant estopped from asserting her rights as a widow?
The court affirmed the trial court’s judgment, rejecting appellant’s claim that she was a victim of Nathaniel’s deceit. At the time of her second marriage, appellant knew that Nathaniel was still alive and that she had not obtained a divorce from him, as she had not been served with any divorce papers. Her subsequent marriage and actions in taking advantage of the divorce Nathaniel claimed he "bought" constituted a repudiation of her marital status and she was estopped from asserting rights under that marriage.