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Family Law

John W. Dennis, Jr., Esquire

Marriage annulled rather than dissolved.  Meadows v. Meadows, No. 30426 (Mo. App. S.D., January 11, 2011), Barney, J.
This summary is provided primarily because there are so few appellate opinions regarding annulment. It is also instructive for cases in which one of the parties is incarcerated. The parties were married while the Husband was serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole. Approximately 2 ½ years after the marriage, the Husband filed for a dissolution of the marriage. The Wife countered with a request for annulment. In the lead-up to trial, the Husband sought writ of habeas corpus so he could be present for the trial. That request was denied. The Wife testified to a variety of circumstances indicating that false representations made by the Husband had induced her to marry and remain married to him. She stated also that the marriage was never consummated. The trial court granted the Wife's request for an annulment. The Husband appealed.
Held: Affirmed.
Reason: "`The right of access (to the courts) does not automatically encompass a right to be present in person at trial.' State of Washington ex rel. Lewis v. Collis, 963 S.W.2d 700, 704 (Mo. App. 1998)."
" `.a prisoner has no absolute right to appear personally in a civil proceeding.' Beckwith v. Giles, 32 S.W.3d 6559, 663 (Mo. App. 2000); see Muza v Department of Social Services, 769 S.W. 2d 168, 176 (Mo. App., 1989)."
The opinion notes that the court may also look to reasonable alternative means by which a prisoner may be heard and thus gain access to the court. Beckwith 32 S.W. 3d at 663; see Kittrell v. Carr, 878 S.W. 2d 859, at 862 (Mo. App., 1994).
"Here it was Husband's burden to demonstrate he was denied meaningful access to the courts or that he was `substantially and irreparably prejudiced by his failure to attend' his hearing. State v. Christian, 182 S.W. 3d 240, 243 (Mo. App. 2005)."

The Missouri Bar Courts Bulletin, 11-Feb