A man, who has been married for twenty-two years, suddenly dies of a heart attack on Sunday. At some point during the course of the day, the man’s cell phone rings and the couple’s youngest son answers the phone. He tells the female caller that his father has died. Some hours later the female caller appears at the house with an entourage trying to get access to the house. The wife of twenty-two years confronts the female caller who arrived at the house and demands to know who she is. The female caller says she is the deceased’s wife. The man’s wife of twenty-two years calls the police. When the police arrive the female caller shows them a marriage certificate, dated four years ago. The wife of twenty-two years shows her marriage certificate as well as the deed to the house with her and her husband’s name on it. The police tell the female caller she cannot come into the house and she has to go to court.
The husband’s body is taken to the medical examiner’s office and the wife of twenty-two years goes to claim her husband’s body so he can be buried. The medical examiner explains to her that she cannot claim her husband’s body because a female caller has contacted their office to claim his body. The medical examiner tells the wife of twenty-two years that she has to get a lawyer and have her lawyer call their office.
The wife of twenty-two years hires my firm and tells the story about her husband that obviously the female caller did not know. The husband was the father of four boys. He and his wife of twenty-two years had two boys, her husband adopted her son from a previous relationship and her husband had a son from a previous marriage. The husband was an only child and both his parents were deceased. He worked as a cook for a daycare for over thirty years until he retired about four years ago. He went for dialysis treatments three times a week.
What the female caller knew (or thought she knew) about the husband was that he worked for Homeland Security and he worked nights. He was married once before and divorced from the wife of twenty-two years. The female caller said he showed her his divorce papers. He told her he had six brothers, one lived in Los Angeles, the youngest lived somewhere in Brooklyn, a third lived in Atlanta and the others were deceased. At their wedding of three hundred guests, one of his brothers was his best man. He said he had two sons, whom she met. He told her that his two sons could not come to the wedding because his “ex-wife,” the woman of twenty-two years, would not allow the boys to come to or be in the wedding. He said he lived alone in the house, which she had been to. He told her that they would be moving into the house this Spring. When she learned from the youngest son that he had died, she rushed to the house thinking the boys were alone and was surprised to find the wife of twenty-two years at the house.When the wife of twenty-two years hired my firm to represent her, we filed an order to show cause demanding that she be declared the man’s wife and that the medical examiner be directed to release his body to her and the funeral home. The female caller had filed. The court signed an order directing that the medical examiner release the body to the wife of twenty-two years and the funeral home for burial or cremation. An aunt of the wife of twenty-two years who was in the court when the case was heard said that the family was going to opt for cremation. The medical examiner stated that this kind of situation was very common; and because it is so common, you always need a good lawyer. On reflection both wives noticed things that raised questions. If you notice things in your life that raise questions you may want to seek a consultation with an attorney.