In a divorce fraud case from England, Neil Rattue was married for 15 years before he was found to have forged his divorce decree, and illegally married another woman. Do his two ‘wives’ file for divorce, or, like rats leaving a sinking ship, annul their marriages?
Smell a Rat
Rattue invented a sickness, claiming he had “terminal cancer” to keep his double life hidden from both ‘wives”. The court in the UK heard a victim statement from his first wife, read out by the prosecutor, who said she felt like her husband had ‘stolen her life’ from her.
Why did he not ask me years ago for a divorce or when he met his new wife? Instead he was leading a double life. I have spent the last 19 years living with my mum as he left me with no other option. I am paying for this both mentally and emotionally. He has stolen my life from me.
Though he stopped seeing his first wife in 2001, he dutifully continued to call her daily for 17 years to ask how she was and discuss their debts, which she was paying off.
A court previously heard his first wife had paid off £30,000 of debt, from credit cards and loans taken out with Rattue, but still had a staggering £37,500 to be paid.
Florida Divorce and Annulment
What if this took place in Florida? I’ve written about divorce and annulment in Florida before. Florida does not have a statute authorizing annulments. The decision to divorce or annul a marriage will depend on certain facts.
Annulment has a history beginning in England, and if King Henry VIII had been able to secure an annulment from the Pope, England might have remained a Catholic country. Today, annulment may best be known for rescuing Britney Spears from an ill-advised alcohol-related Las Vegas “bender.”
Because Florida is one of the handful of states that has no annulment statute, annulments in Florida are purely a question of common law, decided pursuant to the inherent equitable powers of the circuit court.
The historical common law “impediments” to marriage traditionally fell into two general categories: lack of consent and lack of capacity. This is substantially still the case law in Florida.
Lack of consent would include, for example, people who are related within certain degrees, and minors without parental consent.
Lack of capacity, is exactly the situation the Rattue wives are in. Lack of capacity includes marriages involving fraud, mental illness, sham marriages, and shotgun weddings.
While none of the “marriage” statutes in Florida specifically address purported marriages between one person and another person who is already legally married to a third party, bigamy is, of course, a crime. Bigamy raises the question: do you divorce or annul the marriage?
Whether to divorce or annul will depend on the legality of the marriages. Given that Rattue was never legal divorced, he forged his divorce decree, his second marriage would not likely be recognized in Florida.
This is not only a surprise for the first wife but can be devastating for the second wife. But, it also means his second wife would have to file for an annulment. His first wife, who was legally married, could file for divorce.
According to the report:
The matter was not heard by a family court judge hearing whether to divorce or annul the marriage(s), but in criminal court. Judge Richard Parkes QC said Rattue had been ‘cowardly’ and ‘deceitful’ in maintaining his marriage to his first wife, despite having started a new marriage and raising children without his first wife even knowing.
Salisbury Crown Court, Wiltshire, heard how Rattue had met his first wife in Wiltshire in 1980 and they were married three years later. Rattue, who often worked away, then met his second wife while traveling.
The pair, who married on October 3, 1998, lived together in York, North Yorkshire, having two children together. Prosecutor Phillip Warren said Rattue had taken a friend’s divorce certificate without him knowing, before using it to forge his own.
Eighteen months ago, he would still phone me at work every day where he would ask me how I was. He still made me pay off all the money. He said we have got to stay married for the purpose of the loan and I believed him. Little did I know, it was because he had already forged our divorce certificate. This has been a prison sentence since 2001 when he left and stole my life from me.
The Mirror article is here.