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Posted: 4 May 2012 7:17AM GMT
Can anyone help? My grandfather married in 1928 in the East End and subsequently "left" 2 years later. He reappeared in the 1940s using a different name and remarried. I obviously suspect bigamy but his first wife also re-married in 1942. They were penniless so cannot have afforded a divorce. Would the first wife have had any grounds to get a divorce several years later? Is it worth ordering up a copy of this second marriage certificate for the wife?
Any help into this subject most appreciated.
Posted: 4 May 2012 11:15PM GMT
There was something like a 7 year rule. A spouse disappearing and not been heard of at all for 7 years could be declared dead. It would need a court to make it formal, but I don't know if people would have bothered (the cost).
Whether formally declared dead or not, the woman would probably state she was a widow.
If a marriage would have been dissolved it might tell you on the marriage cert. I have one of 1948 worded like that: the bride is "the divorced wife of ...".
Posted: 5 May 2012 9:13AM GMT
Almost, but not quite. There was not and is still no unified procedure for having a missing person declared dead in England or Wales - separate courts have to be approached to deal with each particular aspect of the problem. The High Court can dissolve a marriage on the basis of presumed death but, as you say, this would be complicated and costly - probably more so in the early 20th century than a divorce, for which there were almost certainly grounds.
However, presumption of death - on the basis that a person had been gone heaven knows where for 7 years or more and no one who might have been expected to hear from them had done so - was considered an unrebuttable defence against bigamy. So if a person who genuinely believed that their spouse was dead remarried in that belief (and declared themselves to be widowed), successful prosecution was very unlikely.
Or they could just have fibbed and kept their fingers crossed!
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