The following shows the use of both the principles of estoppel and presumption of
validity of the last marriage in a case involving Mississippi law. (It would also
apply in North Carolina):
Maxine filed for benefits on the record of their deceased spouse, Paul, on 5/04/01.
Maxine's first marriage was to Mel in Mississippi in 1959. They separated in 1964
but no divorce was obtained. Both Maxine and Mel have made statements to this effect.
Maxine married Paul in 1970 and they lived together until Paul's death in 2001. Maxine's
statement indicates that they knew they were not free to marry when they and Paul
were married, so a deemed marriage cannot be established. The presumption of the validity
of the last marriage cannot apply because the file clearly shows that the first marriage
was not ended by divorce, death or annulment.
However, Maxine is Mel's legal spouse. The fact that Maxine is estopped under State
law from claiming certain marital or inheritance rights as Mel's spouse does not invalidate
their marriage to Mel.