Marriage First, Then Divorce: Couple in Dispute Over Whether They Were Married by Proxy

180px-Bride1929It was the perfect scene for a marriage. In a place called Kissimmee, Matthew J. Ditzel, 30, and Heather M. Bowser, 31, were married on a lakefront on a beautiful day on May 24, 2008 and the union was certified by notary and Wyndham Resorts employee, Veronica Gonzalez. There only one thing missing: Matthew. Bowser claimed that he had agreed to a marriage “by proxy.” They are now finally both present, albeit in court in a fascinating Ditzel v. Bowser where Bowser wants a divorce and Ditzel wants the court to declare that there was not marriage in the first place.

Gonzalez is a co-worker of Bowser and recently pleaded guilty to false acknowledgment by a notary public, a misdemeanor, and received a year’s probation. She also lost her job and her license.

Bowser insists that Ditzel agreed to the marriage by proxy and just wants to avoid a division of the marriage property. There is a curious quote attributed to defense counsel’s court representation that “They have witnesses to state that Mr. Ditzel made announcement that they were married, there is a celebratory dinner, announcements made about rings, and they consummated like bunnies.” Of course, “consummating like bunnies” may not be as important as a valid license in this case, though it appears that this was proof of marriage was not done with proxy bunnies.

Proxy marriages were used by nobility for marriages of convenience to create alliances between nations.It turns out that there are people who specialize in marriage by proxy arrangement, here. Proxy marriages are illegal in all states with the exception of California, Colorado, Kansas, Texas and Montana. It is most often used by members of the military and indeed, in California, it is only legal for members of the armed services. The real standout is Montana, which allows double-proxy marriage. Now, if only you can have double-proxy marriage that continues after the ceremony. That would likely bring down divorces dramatically.

It turns out that the idea of being marriage by proxy was a good idea for this particularly couple, which tended to have problems when they were in close proximity to each other. On July 3rd, Ditzel accused Bowser of domestic violence. He later called the police to say that he was married without his knowledge.

In the meantime, Wyndham also got rid of Bowser and she was arrested on three fraud-related felony charges.

At least Bowser did not claim to be married to the judge, as in a case this week in New York.

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12 thoughts on “Marriage First, Then Divorce: Couple in Dispute Over Whether They Were Married by Proxy”

  1. Thank you for the clarification. I presumed there was a logical answer.

  2. Research Geek, the annulment procedure is available in a number of circumstances. Technically, it is a proceeding to secure a declaration that a valid marriage did not occur, regardless of whether it was voidable (e.g., because procured through fraud or one of the parties was underage and legally incompetent to marry) or void (e.g., the case in question). The only other available procedure would be a dissolution of marriage action, but that would have no application to this situation. The annulment action is necessary to eliminate the official record of the marriage.

  3. Thank you Mike. I try to do my homework. From what I have researched, it appears the judge just doesnt understand the information presented by Mr. Ditzel’s attorney. The judge wants it as an annulment proceeding. What I dont understand is how can one annul a marriage that never happened in the first place?

  4. Research Geek, nice job, the yeoman’s work for certain. Thanks.

  5. Research Geek, good work. I live in Florida and have performed several marriages over the years as a licensed notary public. The court will declare the marriage void in due course for all of the reasons you mention. With the sole exception of the groom, everybody involved broke the law. That’s pretty much the end of the story.

  6. I have researched this story at length. I like bizzare stories. Here are facts that are left out of this story. 1. the marriage license says the ceremony took place on the lake front in Kissimmee although the fact is this transpired at the office desk of the notary. 2. The notary notarized the document absent a groom and witnesses. Bowser got 2 additional witnesses to sign the marriage license sometime after the notary did her thing. 3. The 2 coworker witnesses on the marriage license also got fired from Wyndham Resorts. 4. Florida notaries get their authority to solemnize (perform marriage ceremonies) marriages by Florida statue, as long as they follow the prescribed rules and regulations put forth by the agency responsible for notaries within the state of Florida. 5. That agency is within the office of the Governor of Florida. 6. There is a manual created by that agency which stipulates what notaries can and can not do. It specifically states: No marriage by proxy. Also it states elsewhere: Bride and groom must both be present at the same time when the marriage is solemnized. 7. Testimony by Ditzel at the injunction hearing on July 3 indicates that Ditzel was not informed of the “marriage” until weeks after it was illegally recorded with the clerk of the court. 8. Police were notified of the crime, for purposes of pressing charges, after the notary and Bowser admitted to falsifying the marriage license scheme. Those admissions came from depositions taken in October. Once they admitted to the crime, the police could get involved. 9. As part of her deposition, the notary Gonzalez testifies she notarized the document away from any witnesses and gave said document to Bowser approximately a week before the date put onto the marriage certificate by Bowser. 10. Defense counsel’s claim about witnesses refers to an occasion other than the date of the falsification of the marriage license by the notary. Defense counsel’s statement was made as a closing remark during a recent hearing for summary judgement, but is absent any foundation of testimony, fact or evidence other than the dramatic speech of someone who is grasping for straws trying to represent her client in what should be an open and shut case. 11. There is no marriage property to divide as there was no marriage in the first place. Therefore anything purchased after the “recorded date” is still just the purchase of two, single, people.

    Lamar, I would like to find out how to contact you outside the realm of discussion forums that are not secure.

  7. There is no Common Law Marriage rights in Florida since 1968.
    There is no marriage by proxy in Florida.
    Court records also show Bowser was arrested for domestic violence before.
    Records also show that on October 10, 2008 Ditzel filed a complaint with the Sheriff’s Department about Gonzalez and Bowser falsifying marraige license. It just took two reports to get it done.
    Florida has enough people moving here to hide their criminal past, to hide their financial assests in real estate, and now it will be to get married and not even have to be at the ceremony.

  8. Funny how it ends up like this, but Florida’s statutes go on and on about marriage licenses, officiants, recording of marriage documents, marriage certificates and so on, yet nowhere do the statutes actually state that a ceremony or license is required. How do things like that get omitted?

  9. WOW.

    This is totally off topic, but if it isn’t our old “friends” the Saudis.

    Professor, please please please give this it’s own thread.

    From the article:

    Documents Back Saudi Link to Extremists

    Published: June 23, 2009

    WASHINGTON — Documents gathered by lawyers for the families of Sept. 11 victims provide new evidence of extensive financial support for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups by members of the Saudi royal family, but the material may never find its way into court because of legal and diplomatic obstacles.

  10. The void ab initio tactic is sound, especially in light of the DV report where he claimed lack of knowledge to the proxy. There is good basis for seeking annulment. I’m not sure about the Florida specifics (maybe Mike A can fill in the gap), but in many states fraud or fraud in inducement are valid grounds for annulment.

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