The court determined that a religious ceremony was insufficient for a legal marriage where it failed to satisfy other statutory requirements.
Ellehaf v. Taffaf, 2006 WL 736561 (Mich. Ct. App. 2006) Court: Court of Appeals of Michigan
Father and Mother held a religious marriage ceremony in Michigan. Neither of them obtained a marriage license from the county clerk as required under Michigan law. The couple had two children. After four years, the Father had received two religious divorces, and had legally married another woman in Michigan. The Father then requested the circuit court for child custody and a declaratory judgment that the couple had never been married. The Mother counterclaimed for divorce. The circuit court granted the Father’s request for a declaratory judgment.
The Mother appealed the circuit court’s decision. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the parties had never been legally married. The court cited the numerous representations the Mother had made to the police, the Social Security Administration, and the IRS that she was not married as evidence of her state of mind. Also, because the Mother had previously been legally married and divorced in Michigan, the court noted that she should have been aware of the differences in her first legal marriage and the second religious ceremony. The Mother claimed that the marriage was registered in Lebanon and the court should recognize a marriage validated in Lebanon. However, the court noted that there was no evidence of the validity of the marriage in Lebanon. The only proof was a registration that the Mother unilaterally applied for four years after the ceremony. The court also dismissed the Mother’s claim that the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to decide on the Father’s motion for declaratory judgment.
History: The case was appealed, and review was denied by the Supreme Court of Michigan.