Depending on your circumstances, finding out that your marriage is invalid could be the best or worst thing that’s ever happened to you. An invalid marriage is one that’s not considered legally enforceable. These types of relationships are more common than you might think. For example, Kimora Lee Simmons found out during unrelated legal proceedings that her connection to estranged husband Tim Leissner had been invalid the entire time.
Specifically, Leissner forged divorce papers from his previous relationship to marry Simmons. As a result, the couple’s marriage was never legally permissible. Here’s what you need to know about the Simmons-Leissner divorce and what to do if your marriage is invalid.
Leissner’s Admissions of Forgery and Fraud Make His Marriage Invalid
Tim Leissner, a former Goldman Sachs banker, is at the heart of a number of major trials at the moment. He’s been accused of participation in an embezzlement scheme at 1MDB, which led to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. He’s also been put on the stand at the bribery trial of Roger Ng, a fellow former Goldman banker. That was where he admitted that he had fraudulently married Kimora Lee Simmons.
According to his testimony on the stand, Leissner photoshopped divorce documents that “proved” he was officially divorced from his previous wife, Judy Chan Leissner. He used the forged documents to convince Simmons that he was eligible to get remarried, and they wed in 2014. However, since Leissner was not actually divorced, the relationship is retroactively considered invalid.
What’s more, this wasn’t the first time he had done this. According to Leissner, he had done precisely the same thing to Chan before their 2000 wedding, faking divorce papers from his first wife. Essentially, neither of Leissner’s most recent two marriages were valid at any time.
Obviously, Leissner’s deception is incredibly serious. Most cases in which a marriage is found invalid are nowhere near so dramatic. It’s more common for a wedding to be invalid because of bureaucratic errors or more everyday fraud.
Why Can Marriages Be Found Invalid
So what can lead a marriage to be considered invalid? There are two basic types of unenforceable marriages. The first is a “void” marriage, which is automatically considered null because it’s never legal. Reasons a wedding may be found void include:
- Bigamy: In the US, people may only be legally married to one person at a time. That’s the issue with the Simmons-Leissner divorce. If someone is already legally married to someone else, they cannot get married to a second person until they have a finalized divorce. This can occur accidentally if someone jumps the gun and tries to get married before everything is truly complete.
- Incest: Close relatives, usually defined as first cousins or closer, may not get married to each other in the US. If it’s found that two spouses are closely related, the wedding is void.
- Permanent lack of valid consent: People with specific mental disabilities are considered to be unable to consent to something as serious as getting married, so they can never legally do so.
- Underage: An underage person can never consent to a marriage. If a legal adult gets married to a minor without appropriate parental consent, the marriage is also void.
The other kind of invalid marriage is considered “voidable.” These relationships are technically not enforceable, but one of the partners must petition for an annulment for the wedding to be invalidated. These situations include:
- Previously underage spouses: If two people get married when underage but have since reached adulthood, their marriage is voidable but not void. Either party could petition for an annulment, but otherwise, the relationship can continue.
- Uncertified registrants: A marriage isn’t considered official if the registrant isn’t correctly certified. However, the relationship is still valid until either party asks for it to end.
- Temporary lack of valid consent: Temporary mental impairments such as concussions or intoxication during a wedding ceremony make the relationship voidable if either party chooses to file for annulment.
Until one person files for an annulment, these relationships continue as though they were valid.
What to Do If You Think Your Marriage Isn’t Valid
If you’re worried that your marriage isn’t valid, you should do your research right away. It’s always better to know whether you’re in a legally precarious situation, so you can do something about it. A few ways to double-check whether everything is on the up-and-up include:
- Look into your spouse’s legal history. You can research your spouse’s past to discover whether they had any previous marriages or age issues that would prevent your relationship from being legally recognized.
- Double-check all the paperwork involved in your wedding. Look into details like your officiant’s certifications and the filing of all your paperwork. If anything is missing, your marriage may not be valid.
- Consider your own status during your wedding. If you want out of your relationship, you can also consider ways you might contribute to your wedding being found invalid. For instance, if you were underage when you married, it’s automatically voidable. If you were otherwise forced to give consent, including through threats from your spouse or others, you could also have your marriage annulled.
Don’t Let Your Invalid Marriage Stand
Whether you want to keep your relationship or you’re eager to get out of it, you need to address an invalid marriage sooner rather than later. You should either make sure your wedding is considered fully valid or use its void or voidable status to end things. Staying in the hazy gray area in between is a recipe for a legal mess.
The best way to resolve your concerns about an invalid wedding is to work with an experienced divorce lawyer. The right attorney will help you understand your marriage’s circumstances and whether it’s genuinely valid. They can also help you take the legal next steps to either end or reinforce your ties to your spouse if it isn’t. You can kickstart the process today by scheduling a consultation with the experts at Regele Law, LLC.