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Florida Bigamy Laws


Bigamy is when one person is married to two people at the same time, and in Florida and every other state, it is against the law.  On the surface, it is an old-fashioned sounding word that has lost its sting.  Lots of people cheat on their spouses; the divorce court does not care which of you cheated, and whether either spouse committed adultery usually has no bearing on the court’s decisions about property division and parenting time.  Some spouses even give each other a “hall pass” and adopt a don’t ask, don’t tell policy about extramarital affairs; there are entire corners of the Internet devoted to the etiquette of so-called ethical non-monogamy.  By this logic, can there be ethical bigamy?  Can you decide that it’s cool that your spouse did not legally divorce his or her first spouse before marrying you?  Legally, you cannot, but bigamy affects your divorce less than you might think.  In other words, in many divorce cases involving allegations of bigamy, the divorce is such a mess that the unfinished prior marriage is just a minor subplot.  If you are getting a divorce from someone who lied to you about everything, even his or her marital status, contact a Boca Raton divorce lawyer.

Is Bigamy a Crime?

Technically, bigamy is a third-degree felony, punishable by a prison sentence.  This might seem like a throwback to a time when the law micromanaged people’s personal relationships more than it does now, but the legal rationale has to do with property laws.  A person can only have one spouse at a time, because spouses have special rights regarding inheritance.  Likewise, when a couple gets divorced, the court must divide the marital property; it might also award alimony if the lower-income spouse would otherwise be destitute and would qualify for public assistance; better that the financial burden should fall on an ex-spouse than on the taxpaying public.

In practice, few people get convicted of bigamy.  You can be acquitted if you can prove that you had not heard from your first spouse for at least five years when you married your second spouse, and you did not have reason to believe that your first spouse was still alive.  Another valid defense is that you reasonably believed that your divorce from your first spouse was final when you married your second spouse.

How Does Bigamy Affect Your Divorce Case?

If you are a bigamous spouse, your current marriage is not legally valid.  Therefore, the court will annul your current marriage but not grant a divorce.  None of your property legally counts as marital, which means that property division is a mess.  The legal validity of your marriage does not affect your parenting time; all parents of minor children are entitled to court-ordered parenting time, whether the parents were legally married or not.

Contact Schwartz | White About Divorcing a Bigamist

A South Florida family law attorney can help you if you are getting divorced after finding out that your whole marriage was a lie.  Contact Schwartz | White in Boca Raton, Florida about your case.

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