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Don't let yourself get mixed up in a divorce muddle-up

A former Hollywood favorite -- Ben Vereen, one of the stars of the iconic miniseries "Roots" -- has found himself in the middle of a divorce mix-up.

As a result, he now has to pay $10,000 to a long-divorced spouse to help with her legal fees.

The actor, at the age of 19, had married his first wife way back in 1965. In 1972, he sued for divorce while still a resident of New York, then moved to Los Angeles before eventually remarrying a few years later.

In 2015, his first wife contacted him with some startling news: According to the department of Social Security, they were still legally married. The shocked actor promptly sued his presumably ex-ex-wife for divorce all over again. Somehow, the divorce proceedings this time became rather complex and the litigation seemed to be intense -- to the point where his first wife amassed almost $63,000 in legal bills.

This is where the situation became extremely muddled and highly unfortunate for the actor. While his 2015 request for a divorce included documentation regarding the original divorce filing, apparently no one ever tried to determine if the 1972 divorce had, in fact, been finalized.

Once that finally happened, a judgment was discovered, granting the actor a divorce effective Aug. 21, 1974. Had that simple action been taken earlier, the quite-legally-divorced duo could have avoided the extensive litigation and legal bills.

Since they hadn't, and the actor had initiated the unnecessary divorce proceedings, his former wife sought help from the court -- asking the judge to make her ex-spouse pay the legal fees she'd amassed. It isn't a particularly uncommon request in family court, especially when one spouse makes significantly more money than the other and involves the other in unnecessary litigation. Given the mix-up and the disparity between their incomes, the actor is probably lucky that the judge didn't find him liable for even more of her fees.

Take a lesson from the actor's situation and don't let your own divorce litigation escalate unnecessarily -- it happens more often than many people probably suspect and the consequences can be financially painful. Talk to your attorney about less-costly alternatives than litigation, like mediation. For information on how our firm might be able to help you, please visit our web page.

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