Bamboozled by my spouse
Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,
I am married with three children, ages six, 12 and 18, all living in Jamaica with me. A year and a half ago, my husband left to go visit family in Florida and never came back. I found out he is living with another woman and he divorced me. I also found out that he 'gazetted' me in a newspaper called 'Daily Review'. I did a search and found a notice saying he doesn't know my where-abouts - which is a lie! It was filed in a Broward court.
Now I am thinking that's not legal because we have three children and were married for 13 years, but together for 23 years. We have assets together - house, cars, etc. We talk every day. He sends money every week for me and the kids.
I told him I'm going to call immigration because he lied to the court to get a divorce. I didn't sign anything. My kids and I would be left with no benefits if anything should happen. Could you explain what can happen in a situation like this? How can I put a stop to it?
It is unfortunate that your ex-husband chose to lie under oath to obtain a divorce in Florida. You are not required to sign a document in order to be divorced in Florida. If the petitioning spouse swears under oath that the whereabouts of their spouse is unknown and that they have exhausted all avenues to find that spouse and publish the pending divorce in the media, the courts will grant the divorce.
However, it is clear that your ex-husband lied in order to be divorced and possibly pursue immigration status in the United States. He must also have failed to indicate to the court that he has three children and assets with his previous wife. Florida has open public records and his entire divorce file at the clerk of the court's office can be accessed. His divorce can be set aside, i.e., he would be legally still married to you; and if he received a green card through marriage to someone else, that green card would be void.
You indicate that you are willing to get back with your husband, but it is obvious that he has moved on with his life, and you need to come to terms with his actions. To disclose him to the authorities at this point would have a devastating impact on his future. However, to safeguard child support and the distribution of assets and debts in Jamaica, you should retain an attorney in Broward to handle the matter delicately and discreetly with your husband. If, on the other hand, he is unwilling to make an agreement with regard to the children and assets/debts, you would have no choice but to take the ultimate step.
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida; and an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College's School of Justice. firstname.lastname@example.org