By Gerri Elder
Marriage is a legal contract. When most people get married, they do it because they are in love and have an intimate bond of trust with their spouses. But what happens when the trust is misplaced, or the entire marriage was built on lies and greed?
For most people who feel betrayed or lied to during a marriage, the obvious option is to hire a lawyer and file for divorce. However, in certain limited circumstances, marriages can be annulled. An annulment is retroactive and declares the entire marriage null and void, as if it had never existed and therefore no need to divide assets or establish any type of alimony or spousal support.
For one Arizona woman, an annulment may have ridded her of a husband, but after being deceived for six years she will hardly be able to forget the experience and pretend that it never happened.
The Arizona Court of Appeals recently ruled that Kumiko Cuthbertson was entitled to have her marriage to Ronald Cuthbertson annulled because he lied about his finances and his previous marriages and also would not stop dressing in women's clothing as he had promised Kumiko he would.
The three-judge panel decided unanimously that Karen Adam, a judge pro tem in Pima County, Arizona appropriately granted Kumiko's petition to annul the marriage that had lasted for six years. Ronald represented himself and argued that Adam should not have granted the annulment.
The marriage of Kumiko and Ronald Cuthbertson was the product of a relationship that began on the Internet. The pair met on the Internet during 1996 while Kumiko lived in Japan and Ronald in the United Stated, and chatted and e-mailed frequently before deciding to meet in person the next year.
According to court documents, Kumiko said that when she met Ronald in person she did not speak English and used a dictionary to understand what Ronald had written to her. They hit it off despite the language barrier and Ronald moved to Japan to be with Kumiko. They lived together for 17 months before their Japanese wedding in 1999.
Kumiko testified that before the marriage Ronald had told her that he was going to open a business or have a book published and would earn more than $1 million with these endeavors.
Kumiko and Ronald moved to Tucson, Arizona and got married again in Arizona about 18 months after being married in Japan.
After waiting and waiting for Ronald to fulfill his promises, Kumiko became dissatisfied with the marriage and felt that Ronald had deceived her into marrying him so that she would financially support him. In June 2005 she filed a petition asking the court to annul the marriage.
When the case went to court, Adam agreed that Ronald manipulated Kumiko into marrying him so that he could have access to her considerable assets and granted Kumiko an annulment.
Ronald appealed, because of course he still wanted a cut of those significant assets, and said that the judge acted illegally and deliberately deprived him of his statutory rights to a division of community property that he may have received in a divorce. Remember that with an annulment there is no division of assets.
Ultimately the appeals court agreed with Adam's decision to annul the marriage and found that Ronald did marry Kumiko in order to access her money and lied to her about his financial prospects. He had also lied about his previous marriages and told Kumiko that she was his third wife, when actually she was his fourth or fifth wife. The appeals panel also concluded that Ronald had continued cross dressing although he had promised Kumiko before they were married that he would stop and that he spent $173,000 of Kumiko's money without her permission.
Ronald argued that the money was community funds, but since the marriage has been annulled there never was any community funds or property and he may be liable to repay Kumiko should she decide to pursue that issue in civil court.