Friday, May 18, 2007

That describes my take on the Emma McPeek, et al. v. Charles McCardle from the Indiana Court of Appeals. Mother owns the farm that was in the family for generations when she marries McCardle. When she dies the children from the first marriage file a declartory action requesting the court find mother's marriage to McArdle void. After all, mother died without a Will so McCardle stands to inherit half the farm via Indiana's intestacy statute. Losing the family farm did not please the children.

The children's theory revolved about what makes a valid marriage. The Indiana Court of Appeals described their theory like this:

Here, it is undisputed that Edwina and Charles complied with the requisite statutes in obtaining and filing their Indiana marriage license and certificate with the clerk of the Ohio County Circuit Court.2 It is also undisputed that Reverend Campbell could have solemnized the marriage under Indiana law had the ceremony taken place in this State. The only question, therefore, is whether the officiant’s failure to obtain the requisite license to marry the couple in Ohio—notwithstanding the fact that he was statutorily authorized to perform Indiana marriage ceremonies—and the couple’s failure to obtain an Ohio marriage license—notwithstanding the fact that they properly obtained an Indiana marriage license—render the marriage void.
The children went onto argue that Indiana courts should find the marriage void because it failed to comply with Ohio law. The Indiana Court of Appeals got rid of that argument quickly.

Which leaves the children and step-father to divide the farm that had been in the children's family for years and years.

Marrying someone with children and with property is a recipe for trouble. A Will might have solved some of the problems. A prenuptial agreement would have been a better solution.