Oswald v. Oswald

Family Law

New York Law Journal


Presiding Justice Karen Peters

Wife appealed from a judgment granting husband's motion for summary judgment declaring the parties' marriage null and void. The parties were married in a ceremony performed by a Universal Life Church (ULC) minister. They executed an antenuptial agreement three days before the ceremony, which only took effect if the marriage was solemnized. Husband sought a declaration the marriage was void from its inception, thus the antenuptial agreement was unenforceable, arguing the officiant lacked authority under the Domestic Relations Law to solemnize the marriage. The panel declined to follow the ruling in Ranieri v. Ranieri, as the Supreme Court was constrained to do, finding the belief system and the inner workings of the ULC could not have remained static since the ruling 25 years ago. It opined if the ULC constituted a "church" under the Religious Corporations Law, finding wife's submissions, including an affidavit from ULC's president, that ULC had numerous places of worship, and those ordained as ministers by the ULC were authorized to perform weddings, raised factual issues precluding summary judgment. As husband failed to establish the officiant did not have authority to solemnize the marriage, the order granting husband's motion was reversed.

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