A Los Angeles councilman is scrambling to determine whether or not he's actually married to one wife or two -- which also means trying to figure out if he's an accidental (or, as some people have suggested, a deliberate) bigamist.
According to his former divorce attorney, Councilman Curren Price's divorce from his first wife was properly finalized sometime after he filed in 2011, and he was free to remarry at will. He married his second wife, Del Richardson, sometime later. According to court records, however, the divorce from his first wife may not have been properly finalized.
This is actually a more common problem than most people realize. According to at least one attorney and professor, people often mistakenly believe that their divorce is final when it is not. He estimates that there are probably 100,000 people walking around Los Angeles County alone who think that they are divorced when they aren't.
The confusion usually arises because a divorce decree has two dates on it -- the date that the judge signs off on it and the date that it is recorded by the clerk of courts. When the divorce isn't properly recorded, it isn't final under the law.
That can turn even well-intended individuals into criminals since bigamy is against the law. Most people, however, don't face the same sort of public scrutiny that the councilman faced due to his position as a public figure. The allegations surfaced during his bid for re-election, suggesting that those delving so deeply into his personal life may be politically motivated.
Just the same, Councilman Price is seeking to locate all the records that he needs to prove that his divorce was final prior to his second marriage in order to resolve any potential issues for his current marriage.
It's unlikely that the councilman will face criminal charges over the issue, even though bigamy is considered a crime. Bigamy is usually only prosecuted when the judge doesn't believe that the individual involved was acting in good faith. However, the potential problems for his second marriage are severe -- his current wife might not actually have any legal relationship to him at all until this issue is resolved.
Anyone who has reason to question whether or not their divorce was properly finalized or whether or not their current marriage is valid will find the help of a family law attorney very beneficial.