Beverly L. Hughes (hereinafter defendant) and Dean Thomas
Lindsey were married on 12 December 1986 in Maryland. Subsequently,
the parties separated and Dean Lindsey attempted to procure a
divorce from defendant in the Dominican Republic and a divorce
decree was entered on 11 August 1995. However, neither defendant
nor plaintiff in that case resided in the Dominican Republic at the
time of the entry of decree, and neither were present in the
Dominican Republic before, during or after the entry of the decree.
Thereafter, in September of 1995 Dean Lindsey and defendant
entered into an agreement to acknowledge and abide by the divorce
decree obtained in the Dominican Republic, split certain assets and
agreed to be divorced. In February 2000, defendant became remarried
to David Hurston (hereinafter plaintiff) in the District of
Columbia. Between 1986 and 2000, neither Dean Lindsey nor defendant
ever filed an action for divorce in the United States. Prior to the
marriage of defendant and plaintiff, defendant informed plaintiff
about her former husband obtaining a divorce decree to end themarriage between defendant and Dean Lindsey in the Dominican
Republic. The couple lived together in Maryland as husband and wife
until October 2003 when they moved to Forsyth County, North
Plaintiff and defendant continued to live together as husband
and wife until 10 July 2004 when defendant informed plaintiff that
he was seeking a divorce and defendant thereafter filed a complaint
against plaintiff seeking post-separation support, alimony,
equitable distribution and attorney's fees. Plaintiff then filed
the complaint in this action against defendant seeking to have the
marriage annulled and declared void ab initio.
The district court determined that the marriage was void ab
initio where it was a bigamous marriage but estopped defendant from
asserting the invalidity of the marriage as a defense in the
instant proceeding as well as in the matter in which defendant was
seeking post-separation support, alimony and attorney's fees from
Plaintiff and defendant now appeal.
 Defendant gave her notice of appeal to the order of the
district court; however, she has failed to set forth any
assignments of error in the record on appeal. The North Carolina
Rules of Appellate Procedure clearly state, the scope of review on
appeal is confined to a consideration of those assignments of error
set out in the record on appeal in accordance with this Rule 10.N.C.R. App. P. 10(a) (2006). Additionally, N.C.R. App. P. 10(c)(1)
states unequivocally that [a] listing of the assignments of error
upon which an appeal is predicated shall be stated at the
conclusion of the record on appeal . . . . N.C.R. App. P 10(c)(1).
Where defendant failed to comply with the Rules of Appellate
Procedure, her cross-appeal is thereby dismissed.
 The question before this Court is whether the district
court erred in concluding that plaintiff should be estopped from
asserting the invalidity of the marriage as a defense in the
instant case and the companion case in which defendant seeks
equitable support arising incident to the marriage. We hold that
the district court did err.
On appeal, plaintiff cites as error conclusion no. 9 of the
district court which states:
Plaintiff should be equitably estopped from
asserting the invalidity of the Dominican
Republic Divorce Decree between Dean T.
Lindsey and Defendant in this proceeding as
well as in the matter of Beverly Lynn Hurston
v. David Mark Hurston
, File No. 04 CVD 4922
wherein Defendant is seeking post-separation
support, alimony and attorney fees from the
Plaintiff does not find error in the district court's
conclusion that the marriage of plaintiff and defendant was void ab
; however, plaintiff does contend that the trial court erred
in making certain findings of fact and conclusions of law which
conflict with other findings and conclusions set forth in the
order. The gravamen of plaintiff's argument is that the trial courterred in its application of the principles of estoppel and
incorrectly determined that plaintiff should be barred from
asserting the nullity of his marriage to defendant as a defense.
In determining whether the marriage was void, the district
court was required to look to the laws of the jurisdiction where
the marriage was effectuated, namely, the District of Columbia. The
District of Columbia Code outlines, in general, certain marriages
which are void ab initio
The following marriages are prohibited in the
District of Columbia and shall be absolutely
void ab initio, without being so decreed, and
their nullity may be shown in any collateral
. . . .
(3) The marriage of any persons either of whom
has been previously married and whose previous
marriage has not been terminated by death or
a decree of divorce.
D.C. Code Ann. § 46-401 (2006). The district court made the
following conclusions of law which have not been excepted to and
are therefore binding on this Court:
4. At the time of Defendant's alleged marriage
to Plaintiff on February 29, 2000 in the
District of Columbia, Defendant's marriage to
Dean T. Lindsey had not been terminated by
death or a lawful and valid decree of divorce,
and Defendant remained married to Dean T.
5. Defendant's alleged marriage to Plaintiff
in Washington, D.C., on February 29, 2000, is
void ab initio
pursuant to the provisions of
D.C. Code § 46-401, as well as the provisions
of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-4.
Where the district court concluded that the marriage between
plaintiff and defendant was void ab initio
, we now turn to a
determination of whether plaintiff should be estopped from
asserting the invalidity of the marriage as a defense.
 First and foremost, plaintiff asserts that defendant did
not plead estoppel as an affirmative defense. Defendant stated in
her first responsive pleading to the court under Fifth Defense:
1. Prior to the marriage between Plaintiff
and Defendant, Defendant was fully
cognizant towards the fact that Dean
Thomas Lindsey, Defendant's former
husband, had obtained a Dominican
Republic divorce decree, divorcing
Defendant and Dean Thomas Linsdey (sic).
2. Since the date of the marriage of
Plaintiff and Defendant, they have
cohabited together as husband and wife
until whereabout July 10, 2004, when
Plaintiff abandoned Defendant.
3. Plaintiff has ratified his marriage to
the Defendant and is estopped to deny the
validity of his marriage to Defendant on
February 29, 2000.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 8(c) provides:
[A] party shall set forth affirmatively accord
and satisfaction . . . and any other matter
constituting an avoidance or affirmative
defense. Such pleading shall contain a short
and plain statement of any matter constituting
an avoidance or affirmative defense
sufficiently particular to give the court and
the parties notice of the transactions,
occurrences, or series of transactions or
occurrences, intended to be proved.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 8(c) (2005). Where all that is
required by the statute is to put the parties on notice of the
affirmative defense sought to be proved, it is apparent that theaverments of defendant pled in her answer sufficiently placed
plaintiff on notice that she intended to put forth evidence that he
should be estopped from asserting the invalidity of the marriage.
Where the issue of estoppel was properly before the court, we
now turn to a determination of whether the district court properly
concluded that plaintiff was barred from asserting the invalidity
of the marriage as a defense to subsequent actions.
 The theory of quasi-estoppel dictates that '[a] person
may be precluded from attacking the validity of a foreign decree
if, under the circumstances, it would be inequitable for him to do
so.' Mayer v. Mayer
, 66 N.C. App. 522, 532, 311 S.E.2d 659, 666
(citation omitted), disc. review denied
, 311 N.C. 760, 321 S.E.2d
140 (1984). In determining whether quasi-estoppel is applicable to
the case at hand, a court must look to three factors, though it is
not necessary that all be present: '(1) the attack on the divorce
is inconsistent with prior conduct of the attacking party; (2) the
party upholding the divorce has relied upon it, or has formed
expectations based on it; (3) these relations or expectations will
be upset if the divorce is held invalid.' Id.
at 533, 311 S.E.2d
at 667 (citation omitted).
Thus, North Carolina courts have applied this principle,
holding that even though a bigamous marriage is void ab initio
party may be estopped from asserting the invalidity of the bigamous
marriage. Taylor v. Taylor
, 321 N.C. 244, 249, 362 S.E.2d 542, 546
(1987); see McIntyre v. McIntyre
, 211 N.C. 698, 191 S.E. 507
(1937). Our courts have held the principles of equitable estoppelto apply in several cases where culpable negligence can be shown.
, 211 N.C. 698, 191 S.E. 507 (husband estopped from
asserting invalidity of marriage where he was responsible for
obtaining an invalid divorce decree from his first wife); Redfern
, 49 N.C. App. 94, 270 S.E.2d 606 (1980) (husband
estopped from asserting invalidity of marriage where he was
culpably negligent for not obtaining a signed divorce judgment from
his first wife); Mayer
, 66 N.C. App. 522, 311 S.E.2d 659 (husband
estopped from asserting invalidity of wife's divorce from her first
husband, because he encouraged and facilitated her procurement of
However, the instant case is distinguishable from the previous
cases decided by our courts. Defendant argues that allowing
plaintiff to assert the invalidity of the marriage as a defense to
providing his marital obligations would be inconsistent with the
prior actions of plaintiff in holding the couple out as husband and
wife to the community at large and conducting day-to-day
transactions as a spousal unit for four years. Defendant further
asserts that plaintiff himself was negligent in that he knew of the
Dominican Republic divorce and neither questioned its validity nor
attempted to determine whether the divorce was a valid one.
Plaintiff on the other hand argues that the principles of equity
have wrongly been imposed here where defendant herself was culpably
negligent and should therefore be barred by the actions of her
unclean hands. Our courts have long recognized the maxim of equity which
dictates that he who comes into equity must come with clean hands;
otherwise his claim to equity will be barred by the doctrine of
unclean hands. See Lane v. Lane
, 115 N.C. App. 446, 445 S.E.2d 70
(1994). Like this Court in Lane
, we find the principles of
equitable estoppel to be inapplicable to the case at hand. In
previous cases, the court has applied the doctrine of equity to bar
the party with unclean hands, the culpably negligent party, from
asserting the invalidity as a defense. Id.
at 451-52, 445 S.E.2d at
In the instant case, it was defendant who did not obtain a
valid divorce decree before attempting to enter into another
marriage; and therefore, while plaintiff may be negligent, she too
was culpably negligent and her claim for the application of the
principles of equity is therefore barred by the doctrine of unclean
hands. Defendant received money from her husband and agreed to
abide by the Dominican Republic divorce decree. Id
.; see also
, 149 N.C. App. at 97, 270 S.E.2d at 608-09.
Therefore, we reverse the decision of the district court and
hold that the doctrine of equitable estoppel is inapplicable in the
present case. Based on the aforementioned decision, we find it
unnecessary to address the remaining contentions on appeal.
Accordingly, while it is not in question today that the
district court properly found the marriage between plaintiff and
defendant to be void ab initio
, the court did err in barring
plaintiff from asserting the invalidity of his marriage to
defendant on the grounds of equitable estoppel, and therefore the
decision should be reversed in part. Further, defendant failed tocomply with the Rules of Appellate Procedure and her cross-appeal
is therefore dismissed.
Reversed in part and dismissed in part.
Judges WYNN and McGEE concur.
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