As bizarre as it may sound, one woman has reportedly been granted the legal right to have a common-law union with a deceased man.
On Tuesday, Dec. 9, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that Janetta Gardiner could be married posthumously to her boyfriend, Kenneth Vanderwerff, reports Fox-13 Now. The ruling is quite different considering the marriage took place after he died.
According to court documentation, Gardiner, 82, and Vanderwerff were involved romantic relationship that reportedly began back in 2007. The courtship lasted until his death at the age of 78 in 2010. Unfortunately, the two never got around to marrying the traditional way. After Kenneth passed away, Gardiner took the initiative to make things happen by requesting to be married to her late boyfriend in a “common law union.” The filing took place approximately one month after his death.
A judge granted her request and appointed her as executor of his estate since he reportedly had no immediate family. But of course, that ruling didn’t fare well with Vanderwerff’s distant cousins. Although the ruling reportedly stated that he had no immediate family, he did have cousins who came forward with an attempt to contest the ruling.
Here’s the detailed version of the Utah Supreme Court Ruling.
The Utah Supreme Court Conclusion reads.
“In sum, we hold that the district court erred when it allowed the Cousins to intervene, set aside the declaration of marriage, and then dismissed the case. Where a petitioner seeks a posthumous determination of an un-solemnized marriage, he or she must serve process upon the estate of the deceased. In this case, Ms. Gardiner waived service on behalf of the estate as the personal representative of Mr. Vanderwerff. The court erroneously concluded that Ms. Gardiner failed to validly effectuate service. Because the court allowed the Cousins to intervene, granted their rule 60(b) motion to set aside the marriage declaration, and then dismissed the case on its own initiative all on the basis of that error, we reverse those decisions and reinstate the September 13, 2010, declaration of marriage between Ms. Gardiner and Mr. Vanderwerff.”
Of course, the ruling has drawn skepticism because many people speculate that Gardiner only wants money. However, her attorney, Robert J. Fuller, recently spoke with ABC-4 News, and he adamantly stated that wasn’t the case. Gardiner’s decision was reportedly based on religious reasons.
“It wasn’t about the money,” Fuller said. “There was no giant estate there…this lady wanted to be deemed the wife…she wanted to be married. Our argument was it’s none of the business of the cousins. I have spoken to my client and she’s pretty emotional. At an advanced age, it’s very important to her for the ruling today. She’s waited more than a year…She wanted to hurry and call her family. When we called later, she was with some friends so it’s a happy day for her.”
What’s your take on the court’s ruling? Share your thoughts.
[Image via Civil Records]