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Wife of kidnapper on the run sues for divorce

Tennessee has been caught up in a gripping real-life drama that's been playing out on the local news for weeks now.

A 50-year-old high school teacher has been accused of kidnapping his 15-year-old student, although she may be more-or-less willingly on the run with him. Authorities believe the teacher may have "groomed" the girl, playing on her immaturity and affections, to make her a willing victim -- but her age makes her a victim no matter what the circumstances of her captivity.

Now, this high-profile drama is part of a high-profile divorce. The teacher's wife of 31 years had earlier pleaded for him to either return home or at least drop the girl off somewhere safe, saying that she knew that this behavior wasn't reflective of his real self. Now she's filed divorce papers.

She can hardly be blamed for moving forward with a divorce, given the circumstances. Since there isn't any real possibility of having her husband sign the necessary paperwork to file for uncontested or "no fault" divorce, she's being forced to take the other option available to Tennessee residents.

Under Tennessee law, there are 15 possible grounds for a contested divorce, one of which is "inappropriate marital conduct." That's the reason chosen in this case, although it hardly seems adequate to the situation.

The fugitive's wife is also seeking alimony for life, among other things. While it's likely that her ex-spouse may eventually end up working only in a prison job, the divorce could potentially entitle her to payments from his pension plus full possession of their joint property -- unless he shows up to contest her pleadings. The divorce could also insulate her financial holdings from any civil lawsuit later filed by the girl or her parents against her soon-to-be ex, which makes the divorce a wise move.

Her plight also illustrates what can be done when a spouse can't be located to serve with divorce papers. The local court permitted her to serve her spouse by publication in the newspaper since there are reasonable grounds to believe that he's left the state and is unable to be contacted.

If you're at a loss and trying to figure out how to protect yourself after your spouse has done something that puts everything you have at risk, contact a divorce attorney today to discuss how a divorce can protect your property and future.

Source: CNN, "Wife of Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping wants divorce," Eliott C McLaughlin, April 04, 2017

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