Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Help Me Howard: Marriage Mistake
Are you married? If you said, "Yes," you had better pause ... because maybe you aren't. It turns out that many people watching right now may not be married. Why? Good question, which is why we now turn to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser for the answer.
WSVN -- When Bruce and Carol moved into their home 15 years ago, they decided to throw a party.
Bruce Abramson: "We had 120 people coming and we decided to get married. We surprised a lot of people. Not everybody who came knew we were doing this."
The pictures from their 1991 wedding night make them smile.
Carol Abramson:"It was a fun night. We had tons of people here."
But mention that wedding today and watch them grimace.
Carol Abramson: "Shocking ... it's shocking."
The trouble began when Bruce realized his property taxes were soaring. He was told that was because he owned the house with a woman whom he was not related to and that there was no record of their marriage.
Carol Abramson: "I was at work when he called me and said, 'We're not married. They never recorded it.' I said, 'Are you kidding? That can't be.' But it is."
Patrick Fraser: "So, technically, you've been living in sin for 15 years?"
Carol Abramson: "Yes, that's what everyone tells us. We have been living in sin."
They laugh about it ... until they think about it.
Bruce Abramson: "It's serious in that it has a lot of ramifications with taxes, my social security."
Carol Abramson: "If anything were to happen to Bruce, I am not his wife legally. I would lose everything, including social security."
The judge who married them has passed away, and the marriage certificate signed that night is lost, leaving them baffled.
Bruce Abramson:"I got married in December of '91, and I would like it to be recognzied."
But, how do you put something in the court record that has been missing for 15 years?
Carol Abramson: "We needed help, and Bruce came up with. 'Let's call Help Me Howard.'"
Let's hope it's a good idea. Howard, are they single or still married?
Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, they are married, because the failure to file the paperwork doesn't invalidate the marriage. It just means the government doesn't recognize it. However, the law allows the couple to prove their marriage by getting two people who attended the ceremony to sign a statement to that effect."
According to state law, the person performing the ceremony should file the official marriarge license with the county within 10 days. Of course, to make sure it gets recorded, many couples chose to file it with the county themselves. Also, make sure you get a certified copy of your official marriage license. If you don't get it, find out why.
As for Bruce and Carol's property taxes, there is good news there as well.
Howard Finkelstein: "Once the paperwork is filed, the property appraiser will reassess the property to refelct that they are married. Bruce has filed a request for a refund for overpayment of property taxes and was told he'll get it."
Connie and Bruce can now quit worrying about having to plan a new wedding, but they wonder how many couples who think they are married really aren't.
Carol Abramson: "I think everyone should start thinking about this. I am sure this is happening to other people. They don't know, and they are going to be surprised."
Now, if you want to find out if your marriage was recorded, it ranges from simple to painful.
In Miami-Dade County, they have made it very easy. Just call: 305-375-3719
In Broward and Monroe counties, they won't tell you on the phone if your marriage was recorded. Instead, you have to go to the courthouse or clerk's office nearest you.
The locations are listed on the following websites:
Married to a problem, and you want a divorce? Contact us, and we'll take a vow to make you live happily ever after.
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