Marriage of Mitchell: You don’t get an annulment if you keep acting like you’re married

IRMO Mitchell (2019) Alameda County Super. Ct. No. HF17862586

Wife filed a petition to annul her marriage with Husband.  The basis was that Husband committed acts of fraud.  Essentially, she claims that he only intended on staying with her until he received immigration papers, and that he was actively seeking sexual relationships with other women.  Portions of the opinion are salacious in an interesting way.  It is sometimes difficult to understand what some spouses see in what another.  The more salacious bits:

“Within a week of Michael’s arrival, he “was soliciting call girls, prostitution, and other women off of sites.” In February 2017,he was jailed for a day and a half and a restraining order was issued after an incident of domestic violence between the parties. While he was in jail,Carolyn discovered text messages to his mother in Jamaica on his phone. Michael wrote,“Me na lef, me na lef til me get my rass papers” and “Cody n u affi fuck reach.” Carolyn interpreted these to mean Michael was “not leaving [Carolyn’s] house until he gets his papers, and “his brother and his mom has to reach the United States.” Carolyn also found extensive text messages between Michael and DeAndra.”

Ok.  So, we have adultery, domestic violence, and fraud.  However, after making these discoveries, Wife doesn’t leave.  She continues to live in the residence, have sexual relations with Husband, and act like a (albeit dysfunctional) married couple.

The trial court grants the annulment, finding that the text message indicated Husband’s intent to simply be married for immigration purposes.  However, the Court of Appeals reverses.  They focus on the fact that Wife stayed in the relationship for months following her discovery.

I am a little surprised from this opinion–in that Alameda County tends to be a little more empathetic with issues surrounding domestic violence.  I think the opinion is logical in some sense; however, it makes little room for the cycle of domestic violence.  Sometimes the abused party is caught in that cycle, is codependent, feels trapped, and/or does not have the resources to leave.  I’m not sure they got this one right.

The entire opinion is available here.

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