What happens if someone commits bigamy?

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What happens if someone commits bigamy?

Someone wants to get married but is already married to someone else. Their divorce will be finalized in 2 weeks. Would it be possible to get caught if they remarried before then?

Asked on September 30, 2011 under Family Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Those are two very different issues:

1) Is it possible to get caught? That just depends on whether anyone checks public records, whether someone in the know reveals the current marriage, etc. It is certainly possible, but not definite.

2) What could happen? Well, to begin with, the second marraige would be invalid, even after the first marriage is dissolved by divorce, because it is impossible to be married legally while married to another. So the second "spouse" would not actually be a spouse, and would not inherit automatically, would not be able to make health care decisions, etc.

Second, knowingly committing bigamy is a crime, and can result in criminal penalties.

Third, there could be other crimes coming out of this--like tax fraud, for filing a joint tax return when not legally married.

Fourth if the second spouse isn't aware of the prior marriage, he or she may be able to sue the bigamist for financial and/or emotional injuries.

In short, it is a tremendously bad idea.


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