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Servicemember facing bigamy charges, wife still seeking divorce

Military divorce cases tend to be more complicated than "ordinary" Tennessee divorces for several reasons. In some situations, for example, the logistical problems inherent with trying to legally end the marriage of two people who are currently living on different continents can be tremendously challenging.

In other military divorces, it's the unique rules and procedures regarding issues such as child support and property division that complicate matters. In still others, communicating with or getting any cooperation from the military spouse's branch of the armed forces creates problems enough -- which is something that the wife of at least one U.S. military servicemember knows all too well.

The woman in question, a resident of Washington State, knew her marriage was over four years ago after the man she had been married to for more than 15 years and had four children with took another woman to South Korea on a new assignment. What she didn't know was that the Army thought her marriage had legally ended in a divorce more than a year earlier.

The Army got that impression from the husband, a staff sergeant who had filed what he purported to be a signed divorce decree from November 2006. But the document was a complete forgery right down to the signatures of his still legal wife and the judge. It wasn't until the wife needed medical treatment during the summer of 2008 and learned that she was no longer covered by what the Army said was her "ex-husband's" military health insurance benefits that she began to put the pieces together.

What she learned was that her husband had not only filed a fake divorce decree with the Army but that he had been illegally "legally married" a second time in June 2008. Unfortunately, putting that puzzle together did not prove to be nearly as difficult as convincing the Army that her story was true or provide any cooperation -- a task that has taken more three years of her life.

Although the Army eventually took her claims seriously enough to investigate and formally charged the staff sergeant with several offenses in March, it has yet to provide the woman with his physical address so she can serve him with papers. As a result, her military divorce case was recently delayed yet again. Making matters potentially worse, a court martial or dishonorable discharge would mean the loss of military retirement pay.

Source: The News Tribune, "Soldier's wife seeks justice in bigamy case," Christian Hill, May 6, 2012

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