Friday, March 20, 2015

Darned Posthumous Marriage

Weber County, District Court, Utah, judicial declaration of common law marriage, civil no. 104900910, Kenneth J. Vanderwerff and Janetta J. Gardiner, 13 September 2010.We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts.

Yet sometimes records have anomalies.
Some are amusing or humorous.
Some are interesting or weird.
Some are peculiar or suspicious.
Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.

Yes, “Records Say the Darnedest Things.”

I’m no lawyer, but even I can see there is something really weird about the marriage of Kenneth J. Vanderwerff and Janetta J. Gardiner. Here’s the story as my non-lawyer mind understands it.

Vanderwerff and Gardiner moved in together in 2007, but never married.1 Utah law doesn’t recognize common law marriages without a judicial decree.2 Vanderwerff died on 22 April 2010. Their “relationship was not solemnized as a marriage in any state during Mr. Vanderwerff’s lifetime.”3 As of 22 April 2010, they had never been married.

Gardiner filed a petition asking the court to grant a decree of marriage. The petition was granted on 13 September 2010, making them legally and lawfully wedded. The court can “back date” the marriage to before the decedent’s death. I suppose back dating is needed when the petitioner is seeking survivor benefits or the like and the marriage needs to be effective prior to the death. In this case, that field is blank.4 They became married after Vanderwerff’s death. (Let’s see how your tree program likes a marriage date after a death date! Or maybe you use one of those programs that doesn’t care, no matter how bad your data is.) As of 13 September 2010, they were married.

Relatives of Vanderwerff’s filed various motions with the court, and on 27 February 2012 the court “provisionally set aside the declaration of marriage.”5 As of 27 February 2012, they had never been married.

On 15 March 2012, the court officially set aside the declaration of marriage.6 As of 15 March 2012, they had never been married.

Gardiner challenged and the case went to the Utah State Supreme Court. On 9 December 2014, the court reinstated the 13 September 2010 marriage declaration.7 As of 9 December 2014, they have been married since 13 September 2010.

Darned if records aren’t absolutely necessary to untangle the sometimes complicated knots of our lives.


Sources

     1.  Janetta J. Gardiner v. Nedra V. Taufer, et. al., 2014 UT 56, ¶ 2; PDF document, Utah Courts (http://www.utcourts.gov : accessed 7 March 2014), path: Appellate Opinions and Cases > Supreme Court Opinions > 2014 > Gardiner v. Vanderwerff.
     2.  “Utah Code,” database, Utah State Legislature (http://le.utah.gov : accessed 7 March 2014), § 30-1-4.5.
     3.  Gardiner v. Taufer, 2014 UT 56, ¶ 2.
     4.  Weber County, District Court, Utah, judicial declaration of common law marriage, civil no. 104900910, Kenneth J. Vanderwerff and Janetta J. Gardiner, 13 September 2010, District Court’s Office, Ogden.
     5.  Gardiner v. Taufer, 2014 UT 56, ¶ 9.
     6.  Ibid., ¶ 10.
     a.  Ibid., ¶ 34.

1 comment:

  1. When you commented parenthetically, "(Let’s see how your tree program likes a marriage date after a death date! Or maybe you use one of those programs that doesn’t care, no matter how bad your data is.)" , I immediately thought, "Yes, like FamilySearch Family Tree, which accepts all dates no matter how ridiculous." Just to make sure I wasn't falsely accusing FSFT of such practice, I logged on, found a relative with no marriage date entered and entered a date after the death of the wife. It accepted it, no questions asked. This has always bugged me. I am not a professional programmer, but I do have some experience writing programs that my chemistry students used. It was easy to program checks for impossible answers that notified the student of the problem. I suspect it would be just as easy for FamilySearch software engineers to do the same for the Family Tree software. Why don't they to it? Do you have any idea? It really gnarls me that FamilySearch Family Tree is one of "those programs that doesn't care". Oh, and in case you are wondering, I deleted the false marriage date after seeing it was accepted uncritically.

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