Thursday, November 30, 2017
Court of Appeal:
Annulment Justified Where Husband Hid Material Facts
Actress Tasha Smith Was Only Told of One of His Five Previous Marriages—Two of Which Overlapped by Four Years—and Not Told of Felony Convictions
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday affirmed the granting of an annulment to Tasha Smith, an actress who did not know when she got married of the number of her husband’s previous marriages—which included two at the same time, at one point—the number of children he had, or his past felony convictions.
She was Bride No. Six; he led her to believe she was his second wife.
Ironically, Smith, who said she would not have wed Rory Keith Douglas if he had told her the truth, was a star of the movies “Why Did I Get Married” and “Why Did I Get Married Too,” in addition to a television sitcom spin-off series.
Justice Brian Hoffstadt of Div. Two wrote the opinion, which was not certified for publication, affirming Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patrick A. Cathcart’s granting of the annulment.
Married While Dating
The opinion recites that Smith and Douglas met on a blind date in 2009. She thought he was single; in fact, he had wed his fifth wife just three weeks earlier.
They were married in December 2010, and the following year, Smith learned that Douglas had five children, rather than the three he had mentioned to her.
But it was not “until early November 2014 that Smith learned that everything else husband had told her about himself was a lie,” Hoffstadt said.
Aside from the actual number of his previous marriages—two of which were concurrent during a four-year period—and his being married at the time he started dating her, the jurist recited, he “was not a preacher of impeccable character,” as he purported to be.
“[H]e was a twice convicted felon with eight civil judgments against him for unpaid debts, with four liens for unpaid taxes, and with two foreclosure actions. Over the years, husband had used four different social security numbers, including one belonging to a dead woman.”
A marriage may be annulled, Hoffstadt said, when “consent of either party was obtained by fraud.” Not every nondisclosure will be sufficient to give rise to an annulment, he pointed out, but said the breadth and nature of what Douglas concealed clearly met the test.
“What is more, the family court’s finding that Smith believed that a man’s honesty, faithfulness, and piety were essential attributes of any husband was amply supported by her testimony,” he said.
Douglas argued that Smith disingenuously professes to value virtue because when she married him, she knew he had been married before and had a child out of wedlock. Hoffstadt responded:
“But knowing that husband had been unfaithful to his wife nearly two decades ago and knowing the full scale of his extensive dishonesty, marital history, criminal and financial troubles, and overall moral turpitude, are hardly the same thing. Along the same lines, Smith stayed in the marriage in 2011 because she ‘felt like [her] mission was to help this family and to support my husband to restore his relationship back with his children.’ We are unconvinced that Smith’s acceptance of one past mistake and her willingness to remain by her husband’s side as he mended his relationship with his two other illegitimate children means she did not consider honesty and respectable moral character essential to a marriage.”
Douglas also contended that Smith “ratified” his fraud because Smith’s sister did a background check on him earlier than 2014 and ascertained his previous marriages. Remaining with him, Hoffstadt said, did not constitute a ratification because Douglas denied the allegation by the sister, and Smith believed him.
On Nov. 7, 2014, on the heels of gaining certain knowledge of the number of previous marriages, Smith filed for dissolution; six months later, she sought an annulment based on fraud.
The case is Smith v. Douglas, B270120.
Douglas was in pro per. Smith was represented by Gary Fishbein of Buter, Buzard, Fishbein & Royce, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
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