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To void a marriage based on fraud, the fraud alleged must show an intention not to perform a duty vital to the marriage, which exists in the mind of the offending spouse at the time of marriage.
In 1999, Jorge L. Ramirez (husband) and Lilia Llamas (wife) were married in a religious ceremony in Moreno Valley, California. The ceremony was performed by a priest or other official from the State of Jalisco, Mexico, and an “Acta de Matrimonio” was issued. No marriage license was issued by the State of California. In 2001, Jorge and Lilia became aware that the 1999 marriage was invalid because Lilia's prior divorce had not been final for 300 days prior to the marriage. The parties were remarried in 2001 and obtained a confidential marriage license. After the death of Jorge's mother, Lilia assumed the position as Jorge's sponsor to pursue his application for permanent residence and citizenship. After Lilia signed a document related to Jorge’s immigration status, Jorge asked for a divorce because he was in love with someone else and always had been. Lilia later found out that Jorge’s other woman was her sister. Jorge filed a petition for dissolution of the marriage. Lilia filed a response to the petition and a request for a judgment of nullity of marriage. The trial court concluded that the 999 marriage was void under the laws of Mexico and neither spouse was a putative spouse since neither acted in good faith. The court also found the second marriage was void because Jorge perpetrated a fraud on Lilia by carrying on an extramarital affair with Lilia’s sister. Jorge appealed.
Were the parties’ first and second marriages void?
The court affirmed the judgment, holding that the husband was not a putative spouse as to the 1999 marriage. Regardless of whether the husband subjectively believed the 1999 marriage was valid, a reasonable person would not have. The marriage was performed in California by a priest or other official from Mexico. The official issued a marriage license, stating that the wedding was performed in Mexico. This in itself was enough to put a reasonable person on notice that the marriage license, and hence the marriage itself, was not valid. The court further concluded that the wife was entitled to a judgment of annulment based on fraud. The fraud was unrelated to the husband's efforts to obtain permanent legal status in the U.S. Rather, it was based on the husband's intent to continue ongoing simultaneous sexual relationships with his wife and her sister at the time that he and the wife entered into the 2001 marriage. At the time the husband entered into the 2001 marriage, he manifestly intended not to perform his marriage obligation of fidelity. This constituted fraud under Fam. Code, §§ 720 & 2210, subd. (d).