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Posted on Thu, Aug. 05, 2010
Wife discovers husband's 2nd marriage on Facebook

St. Petersburg Times

Lynn France suspected her husband might be cheating. She says she even
found him once with a young woman in a Cleveland hotel, about two
hours from the Ohio home they shared with their two young boys.
But she says she only discovered last year on Facebook that John
France, 63, had an entirely separate life in Tampa with another wife.
He's living here with a 25-year-old bride and the Frances' two young
boys, Lynn France's attorneys said.

``Now, that's the only way I see my children'' on Facebook, Lynn
France said in a phone interview. ``It's just surreal.''

Lynn France, 41, garnered national attention after she told the story
during an appearance on NBC's ``Today'' show Tuesday.

John France and his attorney, Gary Williams of Clearwater, made their
own ``Today'' show appearance Thursday. In a interview with the St.
Petersburg Times, Williams explained his client's side of the story.

He said Lynn France knew they weren't legally married. The couple
signed an Italian marriage license and had a lavish destination
wedding at the Amalfi Coast, but the license was never filed, Williams

He said John France has repeatedly offered to let Lynn France visit
their children in Tampa. He's willing to establish joint custody,
Williams said.

But Lynn France says her marriage was genuine. In 2005, she said, they
used a company called Weddings in Italy to help them obtain and file
the necessary documents to get legally married.

She also insists she was blind-sided when she discovered wedding
photos of her husband with his new bride on Facebook.

The two were married at Disney World in December 2008, with the
Frances' two young boys in attendance. John France was dressed as
Prince Charming, said Lynn France's attorney, Andrew Zashin. The
license was recorded in Hillsborough County.

John France's attorney said it was a valid wedding.

But Lynn France's attorneys point to the Italian marriage certificate.
It's an ``international treaty'' to accept it, Zashin said.

In court filings, Lynn France's grandmother recounts the week of Lynn
and John's ceremony. The couple and a few guests flew from Cleveland
to Italy. The day before, the two bought rings. Then, on July 24,
2005, they stood before a priest and exchanged vows.

``The wedding was in a beautiful Catholic Church ,'' Jacqueline R.
Rhodes wrote in a letter filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court. ``After
the ceremony, the priest laid a large church record book on the altar,
and we all signed it.''

In nine signed affidavits filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court as part
of the case to set up a visitation schedule with the children, friends
of the couple wrote that, as far as they knew, Lynn and John were

John France also thought at one time he was married to Lynn France,
his attorney said. But in 2007, Williams said his client wanted a
divorce but after some research, discovered he didn't need one. They
were never legally married, Williams said.

Since the couple disagrees on that point, it appears the issue will
have to be decided in court. The question is: which one?

John France filed for paternity and to set up a parenting plan in
Hillsborough in March. Then, in May, Lynn France filed for a divorce
in Ohio. The Ohio case was closed because a judge decided Florida had
jurisdiction, but her attorneys plan to appeal.

In the meantime, the children, ages 2 and 3, are living in Florida.
John France said he's willing to set up joint custody as long as his
house is the primary residence for schooling.

He owns a Tampa Palms home valued at $788,000, county records show.
His wife says on Facebook she's a student at the International Academy
of Design & Technology.

Zashin said he's not sure joint custody will work.

``It's going to be hard to co-parent with a man who makes these
outlandish statements,'' he said.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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