Local News

Court decision could expand scope of marriage in NC

Posted December 7, 2011

— People need to take greater care in getting divorced in North Carolina than they do to get married, according to the state Court of Appeals.

In a 2-1 ruling issued Tuesday, the court ruled that a marriage can be considered valid in the state even if the couple doesn't have a license and the ceremony is handled by someone other than a minister or justice of the peace.

"This is a very significant ruling," said Lisa Angel, a divorce attorney for Raleigh's Rosen Law Firm.

The case arose from the end of Juma Mussa's 12-year marriage to Nikki Palmer-Mussa. He wanted their marriage annulled, ending his alimony payments, on the grounds of bigamy.

Before marrying Mussa in 1997, Nikki Palmer had married Khalil Braswell in Maryland under Islamic law. They had no license and were married by a construction worker who was Braswell's friend.

She said the marriage was never consummated, and she soon ended it under Islamic law by returning the dowry and declaring herself divorced.

The appeals court ruled that, even though her ceremony to Braswell "failed to meet statutory requirements," Palmer-Mussa still needed to get a judge to grant her a divorce or annul the marriage.

Nikki Palmer-Mussa Woman thought she wasn't married; judges rule otherwise

Because she was already married, the court voided her marriage to Mussa, which has produced three children.

"I just hate to see 13 years mean nothing," she said Wednesday. "It's not about the money, you know. It's principle."

Angel, who isn't involved in the case, said the ruling changes the legal landscape in North Carolina by expanding the definition of marriage.

"There potentially are going to be more divorces or annulments as a result of this because people, before they get married, need to think twice now," she said.

The case won't affect the dispute over gay marriage in North Carolina, she said, because state law already bans same-sex marriages.

Palmer-Mussa represented herself in the appeal because she didn't have the money to hire an attorney, but she said she hopes to get some legal representation for a possible appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court.


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  • barbstillkickin Dec 9, 2011

    I am not against gay marriage I am against breaking GOD'S rules not man. Look I am not here to judge because that day will come for us all believers or non believers. Either way do not judge just keep your opinion to yourself because whoever gets the pocket full of money will approve whatever is on the table. I listen to only one man and his name is Jesus Christ not any judge lawyer or politician.

  • josephlawrence43 Dec 9, 2011

    ok--if I take a cruise, flush out some attractive femine person and we are married by the captain 300 miles out in the ocean. No license, no preacher, no nuttin--I still have to get a divorce before I can marry on land?????

  • hpr641 Dec 9, 2011

    Her "first marriage" was never properly documented by the State of Maryland ... not performed by a recognized official, no license submitted (or even completed), never consummated and the dowry was returned ... YET, it needed to be properly annulled???

    If her "first marriage" really was a "marriage," why do marriage officiants in the State of Maryland have to pay Maryland for that formal recognition?

    Really got a feeling the full court will overturn the appeals court's ruling. If not, how 'bout this for craziness: Say she gets the State of Maryland to formally annul the "first marriage" ... if so, the "second" marriage's annulment becomes invalid, and they go back to being officially married ... and the children are no longer .

  • Shamrock Dec 8, 2011

    "So the answer is: nothing. Not "scared" of gay people, as a few gay friends can attest. Do I disagree with them being able to get married? Yep. And here's the part that's really going to put your mind in circles: Two of them don't support the idea or implied necessities of gay marriage either."
    Save It

    Well, I was really hoping to hear from youmakeitsosleasy since that is the person that put out the original statement I was referring to, but since you responded with about the same level of content that I expected from the other poster, I will follow up with you.

    What reason would you have for not wanting others to have the same rights that you have? What do your "few gay friends" say when you tell them you are against gay marriage? Also, I have no clue what your circles statement means.

  • simplelogic Dec 8, 2011

    So basically this guy gets off scott free with no responsibility for the three kids he fathered, because his wife was "married" - and then "divorced" - prior to that? If they count the "marriage", then why not the "divorce"? Apparently they followed the same rules for both. I don't understand.

  • Save It Dec 8, 2011

    "What you so scared of?"

    You've got to love this crowd. The "homophobia" chanters. I suppose we must be left to believe they are not intelligent enough to know that it is possible to dislike or disagree with something without fearing it.

    So the answer is: nothing. Not "scared" of gay people, as a few gay friends can attest. Do I disagree with them being able to get married? Yep. And here's the part that's really going to put your mind in circles: Two of them don't support the idea or implied necessities of gay marriage either.

  • mmtlash Dec 8, 2011

    come on heteros this article has nothing to do with gay marriage, stop obsessing lol

  • YourMom Dec 8, 2011

    RE: this story: people should be thinking twice before getting married anyway, lisa angel.

    RE: gay marriage:
    It is HATE that drives a person to want to deny marriage to two consenting adults that love each other.

  • Shamrock Dec 8, 2011



    What you so scared of?

  • dwntwnboy Dec 8, 2011

    "NO GAY MARRIAGE for NC.Ever!"-YouMakeItSoEasy .....why do you care? Unless you are gay or lesbian it won't affect your life in any way. If you don't want people telling YOU how to live YOUR life, stay out of THEIR lives. Simple as that. Same sex marriage WILL happen- may be through the courts, but it WILL happen nationwide in our lifetimes.