DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - A woman who planned to marry had no choice but to postpone her wedding after discovering she was not legally divorced. Shocking news since she has a copy of what appears to be a divorce decree issued by a Houston County judge.
After becoming suspicious, that woman contacted the Houston County Clerk's Office and was told her divorce had never been filed.
That ignited a criminal investigation that led police to the office of Dothan attorney Kevin Walding. He is not implicated.
Officers believe one of his employees pocketed fees paid by the bride-to-be. They theorize she forged documents, including a final divorce decree with the forged signature of Circuit Judge Larry Anderson on it.
The problems this situation creates goes far beyond the postponement of one marriage.
Not only can the apparent victim not wed again until obtaining a legal divorce, the man she believed to be her former husband is also impacted.
He moved out of state and remarried. However, that second marriage is not legal because he remains married to his first wife.
“The law is you can be married to only one person at the time. Your second marriage would be what’s considered void ab initio, which is a Latin term meaning void from the beginning,” said attorney Raynor Clifton.
A partner in Dothan Law Group, he has no knowledge regarding the case involving Walding's office and can only speak generally on the matter.
Clifton, a former prosecutor, said there could be significant ramifications for anyone who married without first obtaining a divorce.
“As far as any marital property or anything that has been accumulated that essentially does not exist because the marriage does not exist. It's a mess...it's a big mess,” he told WTVY.
It's not known how many people may have been scammed by Walding's employee. Because police routinely do not comment on pending investigations, they have issued no statement.
Walding confirmed his employee remains on the job. She is represented in the criminal investigation by another attorney, he said.
Clerk of Court Carla Woodall, whose office issues arrest warrants, is essentially a victim because the fraudulent divorce decree had a forged seal of hers on it.
That could pose conflict of interest issues. Because of that, the case will likely be taken to a Houston County Grand Jury.
People who obtained a divorce using Kevin Walding's office and did not speak to Mr. Walding directly may want to verify their divorce paperwork.
That can be done by contacting the Houston County Clerk’s Office at 334-677-4805.