Don't Skimp on Your Divorce Lawyer: A Lesson From the Accidental Bigamist Wife

×
Bride two groomsOf all the regrets commonly expressed by the recently divorced, "I'm sorry I didn't pay my lawyer more money" is probably last on the list. But for one New York woman, the decision to go cheap on the legal fees led to a nasty surprise as she found herself accidentally married to two men at the same time.

As The New York Post reported on Sunday, Jennifer LaCarriere had no intention of becoming a bigamist. In September 2011, as she walked down the aisle in an English church with her soon-to-be second husband, she thought that she was free and unencumbered, a single woman embarking on a new life with a new man. Instead, as she later learned, her first marriage had never been legally dissolved.

In August 2010, LaCarriere and her first husband went to Express Bankruptcy and Divorce, where they met with Leomarys Alvarez, a Bronx-based woman who claimed to be a lawyer and notary public. For $535, Alvarez agreed to file all of the couple's paperwork. Compared to lawyers who charged thousands of dollars to handle a divorce, it seemed like a bargain.

As it turned out, however, Alvarez was neither a notary nor a lawyer, and when LaCarriere returned from her trip to England, she received a nasty surprise. When she contacted New York City officials to complain about not receiving her divorce paperwork, she discovered that it had never gone through. She was now married to two men.

It's not hard to see why LaCarriere and her first husband patronized Alvarez: They were seeking their divorce shortly after New York Gov. David Paterson signed a law allowing no-fault divorces in the state for the first time. Prior to that, couples seeking to dissolve their marriages needed to cite a specific reason, such as cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, or abandonment.

Beyond that, there was also the question of price: While the court costs for LaCarriere's uncontested divorce were only $335, the recent introduction of no-fault divorce made self-filing an unlikely choice for the couple. Faced with spending thousands of dollars to hire a lawyer or mediator, the pair went with what seemed like a reasonably priced option.

According to the Post, Alvarez's plea deal with the Manhattan district attorney's office is expected to result in a $2,500 fine, 400 hours of community service, and five years probation. Her office did not reply to repeated phone calls.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

Correction: In a previous version of this article, a reference to former
New York Gov. David Paterson used the wrong name. While author James Patterson's books have repeatedly topped The New York Times bestseller list, he has never leveraged that popularity to run for office in the Empire state. We apologize for the error.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Understanding Credit Scores

Credit scores matter -- learn how to improve your score.

View Course »

Getting out of debt

Everyone hates debt. Get out of it.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

72 Comments

Filter by:
saglawyer

Would you take out your own appendix or let a doctor do it? Doing your own divorce is the same, especially if you have children, retirement plan and or real estste.

June 22 2012 at 5:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

Yes one can never over pay a lawyer, just aske one. LOL!

January 08 2012 at 12:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cascadetr

After getting the shaft, now I know why so many guys don't want to get married any more. Moral of the story: don't be married in a no-fault or community property state. There are only 2 states where you can sue for alienation of affection. NC is one. I'm moving there next time I get married, which is NEVER.

January 04 2012 at 5:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
laptop603

stop marrying every guy you meet.

January 04 2012 at 4:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
galocke

Wow. The AOL headline linking to this story read, "I Accidentally Married Two Men." I clicked on the link, thinking it was a story about a careless or clueless priest. Nowadays you simply never know.

January 04 2012 at 4:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
krs

Why should a no-fault divorce costs thousands of dollars. There is nothing contested between the two
parties so a simple document stating that you are no longer married should be sufficient.

January 04 2012 at 3:54 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to krs's comment
theycallmeroy2

Say your spouse was sleeping with a monkey and your best-friend at the same time. And you were kind of ticked off about it. No-fault means you can't come to court showing wrong doing of either party. The only time the monkey and your best friend come into play- might be- in custody issues. And that might be pushing it.
Most judges will not sign off, unless a property settlement is agreed to.
So, no-fault or-your fault- can cost thousands or millions of dollars.

January 04 2012 at 5:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Edwardretusaf

Bull she knew. Courts give you a final decree

January 04 2012 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
undaunted8

I framed my divorce papers......

January 04 2012 at 3:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MASTER

I had the similar situation only some wording (dissolution of marriage etc.) was omitted by the recorder so it meant nothing. Legal fees cost more to straighten it out than the first time. Scumbag lawyer's

January 04 2012 at 3:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MASTER's comment
cascadetr

Yeah I agree. My lawyer let all kinds of errors slip through on the final degree and there's no transcript to fall back on. And a clerical error by a clerk cost me & my ex time and beaucoup bucks (mostly me even though it was his custody issue), and they don't give a rats tukus (sp?). Note: make sure your cell's recorder's on so you can fall back on that.

January 04 2012 at 4:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hifie

Understood. just found out my thought to be ex wife now has two husbands her boss and me

January 04 2012 at 2:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply