A New York woman thought she was happily married over 30 years. The Brooklyn woman also thought she was a widow and the beneficiary of her late husband’s life insurance and retirement benefits.

The 75-year-old then found out that the janitor she thought was her husband had obtained a divorce from her years ago. Court papers say the man tried to bypass his wife through divorce so that cash assets he left behind would go to his children from an earlier relationship.

The wife’s discovery of the divorce papers did not happen until after the man died last year at age 65. The 2002 court document claimed the wife abandoned her husband over money troubles and moved from Crown Heights to another Brooklyn address. The hidden divorce was registered as uncontested.

The stunned, elderly woman said she and her husband had lived together happily throughout their three-decade marriage. The woman proved in court that the address in Canarsie where she supposedly “moved away” from her husband was nonexistent. Documents that claimed the wife was served with divorce papers were falsified.

The couple had no children of their own. The husband’s children from a previous relationship stood to inherit their father’s pension and $44,000 in life insurance proceeds. Terms of the inheritance required the man to be single at the time of death. He would have been single, if the divorce agreement had gone undiscovered.

An attorney working with Legal Aid for the elderly helped the elderly woman prove her case before a Brooklyn divorce court. The 2002 divorce was found to be a fake. The insurance money and the pension are now expected to go to his rightful widow.

Legal representation during divorce protects a spouse’s rights. It is difficult to believe but absolutely true that the widowed spouse in this case had no idea she needed a lawyer or knew she was part of a divorce process.

Source: foxnews.com, “New York woman reportedly learns husband divorced her eight years before his death,” Nov. 19, 2012