Bigamy is the act, or intention, of entering into separate marriages with persons that have a living spouse, or entering, or intending, to enter into a marriage when you have a living spouse. The act of bigamy is a class E nonviolent felony and will result in no jail time, but you may be put on probation for one-and-a-half to four years, and you may be obligated to pay a fine.
Many confuse bigamy with polygamy and polyamory. Polygamy and polyamory are the acts of multiple husbands and wives voluntarily living with one another. Bigamy occurs when one person is involved in two separate marriages at the same time. Usually, the bigamist keeps the marriages secret from one another. Bigamy is not consensual. In fact, it is fraudulent and deceptive.
The truth about bigamy is that it is easy to commit. When you file for a marriage license, you will not be asked to provide proof of divorce from a previous marriage. All the bigamist must do is state that they have never been married. Although it may be easy to commit bigamy, due to the internet and social media, it has become more difficult to get away with it.
While there are bigamists who intentionally enter into more than one marriage, many times bigamists commit the act unknowingly. Many people believe that their previous marriage had been legally annulled, or that they legally filed for divorce. The completion of a divorce can sometimes take months to years to complete. To prevent the unknowing act of bigamy, make sure that you receive a copy of a finalized divorce, or any annulment documents. Whether the act of bigamy was committed intentionally or erroneously, the second marriage will be deemed illegal and invalid.
If you found out that your marriage is bigamous, take these steps to protect your legal rights:
- 1. Find out if your marriage is the first or second marriage
- 2. If your marriage is the first marriage, it is valid and you retain all rights as a spouse and must file for divorce
- a. Think of getting an annulment to protect your assets
- b. If you have children, enter into a formal custody agreement
- 3. If your marriage is the second marriage, it is invalid. You have no rights as a spouse and do not need to worry about filing for divorce
- a. If you wish to stay with the bigamist, make sure they finalize the previous marriage’s divorce as soon as possible
- b. If you do not wish to stay with the bigamist, get an annulment. An annulment will protect you if you ever marry again to certify that the previous marriage was illegal. Annulments will also protect the children between you and the bigamist, if you have any
The lawyers at Larry McCord & Associates, LLC have experience representing spouses in all aspects of matrimonial and family law litigation. The complexities in divorce and annulment cases can be overwhelming and emotional. In order to avoid committing accident bigamy because of an uncompleted divorce, contact Larry McCord and Associates, LLC at (631) 643-3084 or fill out our contact form to put an experienced Long Island divorce lawyer on your side.