When a divorce is not really a divorce

Imagine falling in love, marrying, having a child together and living a jet-set life for two decades, hopping among homes in France, Massachusetts and Manhattan. Contrast that with the recent discovery that the man you considered to be your husband had secretly divorced you in a foreign country only four months after the wedding.

That's what one woman, 59, recently discovered about her 90-year-old pseudo-spouse. She claims that the top-secret divorce was merely a ruse to shield marital assets.

The former Boston College Italian Lit professor is now suing the man she considers her husband in Manhattan Supreme Court in order to annul the divorce and prevent him from selling the couple's Manhattan apartment.

She discovered the duplicity in November when the property tax bill arrived for the apartment and she saw that her name wasn't listed as co-owner. Suspicious, she hired an attorney to get to the bottom of the matter. That's when she learned that her spouse used a secret Dominican Republic divorce of which she was completely unaware to get her name removed from their property deed.

Her petition states that she had "no recollection of [giving] any authorization to anyone to proceed with a divorce, or even thinking about divorce from the man she had just recently married."

The divorce never got registered back in New York City, and she claimed that it was fraudulent. She alleges that her husband used "an illegal and fraudulent divorce . . . to rob her."

Furthermore, plaintiff claims that the divorce is illegal even in the Dominican Republic, as neither party ever appeared in court, and Dominican law requires that divorce notices be published in the paper. She claims that this one never was.

She thinks that her spouse's greed is the basis of his sneaky actions. She claims his intention is to sell their single bedroom Midtown condo to his daughter from a former marriage. The adult daughter is a resident of Rome, Italy.

Real estate holdings are often the subject of contentious high asset divorces that require the finesse and skills of a knowledgeable Manhattan family law attorney.

Source: New York Post, "Husband secretly divorced wife after wedding ‘to protect assets’," Kathianne Boniello, Jan. 24, 2016

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