Lindsley v. Lindsley

Facts: Husband and Wife were “married” in Texas in 1997, while Husband was still married to someone else unbeknownst to Wife.  This rendered Husband and Wife’s 1997 “marriage” bigamous and, therefore, void.  Husband finally divorced his previous spouse in 2003.  The parties moved to Tennessee, whereupon Husband filed for divorce in 2008.  Wife sought dismissal on the grounds that there was no marriage to dissolve.  The trial court granted Wife’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the action.  Husband appealed.

The Court of Appeals reversed. The issue turned on whether the parties have a common law marriage under Texas law.  Although common law marriages are not recognized in Tennessee, the courts will recognize marriages from other states, including those that recognize common law marriages.  Texas is such a state.  Husband contends the parties had a common law marriage under Texas law.  Wife says they did not hold themselves out to be married and, therefore, there was no common law marriage.  The Court of Appeals said:

Tennessee courts have long held that although a common law marriage cannot be contracted within this State, our courts do recognize a common law marriage contracted in a state where such a marriage is valid. . . .  [Under Texas law,] a marriage is void if entered into when either party has an existing marriage.  However, the later marriage becomes valid when the prior marriage is dissolved if, after the date of the dissolution, the parties have lived together as husband and wife and represented themselves to others as being married. . . .  As there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Lindsleys lived as husband and wife and held themselves out to others after plaintiff obtained a divorce form his first wife, it is necessary that this case be remanded to the Trial Court for such a determination.

Lindsley v. Lindsley (Tenn. Ct. App. June 11, 2010).

Information provided by K.O. Herston, Tennessee Divorce Lawyer.

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K.O. Herston is a family-law attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee whose practice is devoted exclusively to family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, prenuptial agreements, and other aspects of family law.

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