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San Jose Family Law Attorney Warns of the Danger of Using Internet-Ordained Ministers

A recent Pennsylvania court decision declared a marriage invalid because the couple had been married by an internet-ordained minister. Heyer v. Hollerbush No. 2007 SU 2132 Y08 (York Col, Pa., Ct. C.P) held that the officiant who conducted the marriage ceremony was unauthorized under state law to perform a wedding. San Jose Divorce attorneys believe this case sets a dangerous precedent in which unhappy spouses who want out of a marriage and do not want to pay spousal support or engage in property division could simply argue that since the wedding was not valid, neither is the marriage.

Currently, internet-ordained ministers are legal in all 50 states, except for certain counties in Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where the practice has been legally challenged. Seattle-based Universal Life Church, the largest provider of online ordination, claims to have ordained more than 20 million ministers through the mail or online since 1959. Prominent divorce attorney, Raoul Felder, in New York, who handled New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s second divorce stated that he would not recommend getting married through the use of an intenet-ordained minister, but rather advised the safest route was to go through a regular county clerk. Regardless of this court ruling, some divorce attorneys continue to believe that courts remain likely to rule in favor of the spouse being left, not the one claiming an invalid marriage, as the law favors marriage. For example, where parties had a ceremony, marriage license, and lived together, it is believed that courts will protect the spouse who would otherwise be injured.

If you find yourself in a similar situation or are interested in filing for divorce or simply have questions regarding related family law issues such as child custody, child support, or spousal support, please contact Sagaria Law. Our team of family law attorneys can assist you through the process. We represent clients from Santa Clara County, Alameda County, Monterey County, San Mateo County, and surrounding areas. Contact our office today to schedule your free consultation to speak with one of our attorneys.