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Bigamy PDF Print E-mail

In addition to no-fault grounds, most states still provide traditional or fault grounds for divorce. The fault grounds or reasons for divorce vary from state to state. Bigamy is a specific fault ground for divorce in some states.

Bigamy occurs where one of the spouses to a marriage had a prior existing legal marriage at the time of marrying someone else. Bigamy is not committed if a prior marriage was annulled or ended in divorce before the second marriage. Only the innocent spouse, not the one married to more than one person, may use bigamy as grounds for a divorce.

Generally, the following must be true for there to be bigamy:

  • Existence of a valid marriage entered into by the accused spouse before the bigamous marriage
  • Bigamist must be aware that his or her spouse is living at the time of the second marriage

Under some state laws, a husband or a wife is presumed dead if absent and unheard of for a certain number of years. In that case, remarriage by the other spouse is not considered to be bigamy. In some states, a sincere and reasonable belief that the prior marriage ended by divorce is a defense to bigamy.

In most states, generally only events that happen after marriage can be considered in a divorce action. However, if a state allows divorce on the grounds of bigamy, events that happened before the bigamous marriage, namely the accused spouse's first marriage, are considered in the divorce action

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