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 her deceased husband, Paul, on 5/04/01.
Her 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. She
married Paul in 1970 and they lived together until his death in 2001. Maxine's statement
indicates that she knew she was not free to marry when she 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 wife. The fact that she is estopped under State law
from claiming certain marital or inheritance rights as Mel's wife does not invalidate
her marriage to Mel.