Divorce Court, Gary Coleman, Shannon Price

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox Television

Divorce, shmivorce.

Despite their marriage being legally over at the time of Gary Coleman's death in May, Shannon Price is insisting that she was his common-law wife.

A case of diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks—or just a play for Coleman's estate?

That'll be up to a Utah judge to decide.

Price's Provo-based attorney, Todd Bradford, has filed a petition in a Utah court seeking to have their twisted union declared a common-law marriage, which indeed would pave the way for his client to take control of Coleman's assets.

Utah's common-law marriage statute requires that "both parties are of legal marriage age and are able to give consent. . .Both parties are capable of being married...The parties live(d) together as man and wife...The parties assume(d) marital responsibilities and duties...[and] The parties "held themselves out" as husband and wife, and others perceive(d) them to be married."

According to the petition obtained by E! News, while the couple divorced a couple of years ago and Gary even sought a restraining order against his ex, they still fit that legal definition to a 'T" because they remained living together among other factors.

"If you look at the common-law statute, the main element is that did they hold themselves out to the public as a married couple," Bradford told E! News.

"They had joint bank accounts. For the last three years they filed taxes as 'married filing jointly.' Gary this year filed for Social Security and disability and on both those applications he stated, 'I am married to Shannon Price.' And their neighbors all believe they were married...They had a lot to prove they had held themselves out to being a married couple."

Bradford expressed every confidence a judge will rule in their favor, but couldn't predict what challenges they might face, particularly from Anna Gray, Coleman's former girlfriend who lived with the actor in Los Angeles for several years (though they slept in separate bedrooms) and who is named as a co-administrator of his 2005 will.

Price married Coleman in August 2007, but the two secretly got divorced in 2008, citing irreconcilable differences. In the eyes of the law, that means the 2005 will, which leaves the whole of his estate to Gray, would supercede the 2007 handwritten codicil naming Price the sole beneficiary.

But despite their union going bust, Coleman and Price lived together right up until his May 28 death from a brain hemorrhage.

"At this point, being truthful, I don't know of any issues," he said. "We've debated whether Anna will file an objection brief or opposition to the common law. But they didn't know [his] life [with Shannon].

"At this point I really can't think of any issues. Judges always find in favor of common-law marriage. These guys may have gotten divorce but they didn't throughout their life. We feel pretty confident."

Coleman's Utah-based attorney, Randy Kester, who is representing Gray, was unavailable for comment. Gray and the other interested party, Coleman's estranged parents, have 20 days to file a response to the new claim. If they don't, the judge could just hand down a ruling.

Bradford says that even after the thorny inheritance is sorted out, the estate will have to settle all claims by creditors before the heir can receive any property. And after that's done, there's no telling how much will be left.

"Creditors get to present their claims and those need to pay out of Gary's estate. Is there going to be anything left? There may not be," remarked Bradford. "His assets are pretty much insolvent at this point but I don't' know that for sure. There's definitely not much."

Among the assets the pint-sized thesp left behind: his $315,000 home, various personal belongings, and future residuals from his film and television work.

As for Price herself, Bradford said she's "doing OK."

"She definitely has her hard days. As you know, most people aren't on her side. But you have to look at it from her point of view. Here you have a lady [Anna Gray] who's been estranged from Gary for five years and you have Shannon who's been married to him and been with him for the last five years...If I was in that situation I sure wouldn't want that person taking over my estate," said Bradford.

"She just doesn't think it's right that someone else would try and come take over and act like they were boyfriend/girlfriend and best friends when they really have had minimum contact in the last five years. She's trying to hang strong and get through this."


Get everything we have on Gary Coleman and take a look back at his Life in Pictures.

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