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Til indictment do us part: Fraud suspect's wife wants annulment

Less than two months after their wedding, the wife of a brokerage firm's CEO has asked the court to annul the marriage. The woman claims her husband married her under false pretenses, concealing devastating information from her about his past and his future.

Her husband is accused of defrauding the firm and its clients of more than $200 million. A grand jury handed up a 31-count indictment a couple of weeks ago. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison and face a $7.75 million fine.

When the couple eloped just a few weeks before their scheduled church wedding, his wife says, he knew he was about to be arrested. He also knew that he planned to confess to the fraud and commit suicide to avoid the consequences of his illegal actions. The marriage was just another act of fraud, and she was his last victim.

Court documents say she has no job and no income, but she is not looking for spousal support. The couple has a few shared bank accounts, though, and the bankruptcy receiver for her husband is reportedly working to determine how much belongs to each spouse.

This couple is not in Illinois, but an annulment or a declaration of invalidity has the same result in every state: The parties return to the positions they were in before the marriage, as if the wedding had never taken place.

Fraud is one of the generally accepted grounds for invalidating a marriage. In Illinois, the specific term is "fraud involving the essentials of marriage." It is not an easy standard to meet. Marriage is not just a contract between the parties; there has to be more to the situation than one spouse lying and the other being deceived. Courts have interpreted the "essentials of marriage" to mean something that makes it impossible for the responding spouse to perform the duties and obligations of marriage.

There was no word on how soon the court would consider the woman's petition.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, "Peregrine Financial CEO's new wife seeks annulment," P.J. Huffstutter and Ann Saphir, Aug. 24, 2012

Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Lake County family law page.

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