West York woman, looking for divorce, learns she was never married
The process of filing for divorce took a turn for the bizarre when a West York woman learned she had never been legitimately married.
"I felt like the joke bride of York County," said Kim Bailey, 38. "I brought a copy of our marriage license in and I was told that there was no record of it."
Bailey, who suffers from autoimmune disorders, was bedridden in 2011 when she and her then-boyfriend began taking the steps to get married, she said.
"He said he had done research and told me that if your potential spouse is disabled or overseas, they don't have to be present to sign the marriage license," Bailey said. "I had never been married before, so I thought it could be done."
Forged: That's never the case in York County, said Bradley Jacobs, clerk of Orphans' Court, which is responsible for validating marriage licenses.
"According to the statute, both parties must be present in order to obtain a marriage license. There's never an exception," he said.
Bailey's certificate sported what resembled Jacobs' signature, one of the several features required to legitimize a license, but it was forged. Also forged, Jacobs said, was the appropriate seal.
"The seal that was on this was a gold seal, and there's a star in the middle," Jacobs said. "It doesn't correspond to our standards of issuance and it was supposedly signed by me in April 2011."
Jacobs and with those in his office who have been deputized to give his signature are the only ones who would be able to issue the license, he said.
"Obviously there's no record of the forged license," Jacobs said. "It is however, very close to an original. It's pretty remarkable."
Married: In June 2011, Bailey enjoyed her wedding ceremony at the Wisehaven Ballroom, worrying only about the concerns of a first-time bride, she said.
"There were groomsmen and a best man," she said. "I bought my dress at David's Bridal. My bridesmaids got dresses from David's Bridal. We even took dance lessons and did a step-for-step replica of the end dance in 'Dirty Dancing.'"
Sentimental moments for Bailey included the use of her would-be mother-in-law's ring set, she said.
"It wasn't small or quiet; everything about that wedding was a wedding, and I didn't think for a moment that anything wasn't what it was supposed to be," said the mother of four.
But when Bailey was informed that the license wasn't valid, she began searching for answers.
"The more I dug, the more I uncovered," she said. "I eventually found out that he had hired an actor to officiate."
Aftermath: "I think I just started shutting down when I found out it wasn't real," Bailey said. "It's just been very emotionally and mentally draining."
The former couple have since faced many disputes, including property ownership and name changes.
While Bailey currently lives in the couple's former residence, she has been unable to change her sons' last names to match hers, she said. And because both her car and her oldest son's car were listed in her ex's name, he was able to claim both of them.
"It's embarrassing," Bailey said. "It's something that's just going to haunt me, and for him to be able to just walk away from this like it's nothing is wrong. It's just not fair."
Legal action: After coming across the forged document, Jacobs turned the case over to the York County District Attorney's Office, he said, noting this is the first time he has come across this type of situation.
Bailey's case was assigned a detective, but the investigation has since ended, said Kyle King, spokesman for the office.
"Similar to anything else, it comes down to being able to prove the misconduct in court," King said. "There are a couple matters which one could have been charged with here, but again it comes down to not being able to identify or prove who had filled out the certificate."
No options: Bailey said she feels as though she is without options.
Because the marriage was never legal, her husband is not required to pay alimony, Bailey said, noting she believes this is the reason the documents were forged.
"They said since we were never married and they can't prove who forged the document, there really isn't anything they can do for me," she said.
Bailey, who is paid disability because of her autoimmune issues, said she has been searching for work.
"I've had to try and find a job, even being disabled, to make up for what he will not pay," she said. "It's difficult because I would have to miss so many days because of my health (that) even if I do find something it will be difficult for me to keep it."
Bailey laments the injustice of the situation.
"I'm the one that's holding on to my responsibilities, so why am I the one being punished?" she said. "I believed I was married, and I endured a lot of stuff.
"Of course as a married couple you try to work through things and you maybe stay involved longer because you're married, so to go through all that and to find out that you're not married? It's ruined me."
Bailey said she regularly wonders why there is nothing in the legal system to protect against these types of situations.
"For someone to just be able to go out and do this to anyone they want, well it's just depressing," she said.
Calls to the man Bailey had believed to be her husband were not returned.
— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at firstname.lastname@example.org.