Am I divorced or could I be charged with bigamy if there is no record of my final decree of divorce?

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Am I divorced or could I be charged with bigamy if there is no record of my final decree of divorce?

My divorce from my ex-husband was ordered over 2 years ago. I have since relocated to another state and remarried. However my former state of residence never filed the final decree of divorce into the record and the Bureau of Vital Statistics has no record of my divorce. I also never received a sealed copy of the decree. Is my second marriage valid or am I still legally married to my ex-husband? Could I be charged with bigamy?

Asked on December 15, 2011 under Family Law, New Jersey

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You could only be charged with bigamy if someone filed charges against you but the intent to commit such an act is usually a pre-requisite to liability or viability of charges. Here, you needed to ensure that your divorce decree was finalized and properly filed (your responsibility to mitigate damages). Your responsibility continued to ensure your proper marriage was legally dissolved prior to signing your marriage license and prior to the ceremony itself. At this point, if you feel this was an error on the part of the Bureau of Vital Statistics, you need to contact them again, fax them the documentation from the court showing your divorce was finalized. If you never received a final divorce decree from the court, that is problematic because it could mean that either the court clerk goofed, your paperwork was lost in the mail or you were supposed to attend a final court hearing. If this is the case wherein you never received the final decree, contact the court and request they fix this matter and explain you cannot attend in person. At most, you may have to hire counsel in the former state to attend court and file a motion in court to finalize the decree. If a divorce was never finalized, your second marriage is not legally enforceable and you will need to file a new marriage license and have another ceremony. The only exception would be if your state has some sort of law regarding this thought you were divorced and a significant length of time as stated in the statute has passed. If it has only been two years, it may not be enough.


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