The idea of polygamy, which is having more than one spouse, is more popular than ever nowadays. Polygamy is illegal in the U.S., but unfortunately, some spouses find themselves tangled up in bigamous relationships, which is to say they or their spouse were currently married to another partner when they remarried. Usually, one spouse was unaware of the other first marriage. This re-marriage is considered unlawful in many states, under most circumstances, and the current marriage must be annulled at once. A family law attorney can help you navigate this tricky and often heart-wrenching situation of betrayal and confusion.
What Is Bigamy?
Bigamy is the act of marrying another person while already being currently married, and it is illegal in every state in the country. A person suspected of committing bigamy can be charged and tried, either as a felony or misdemeanor. As such, a marriage with a bigamist is void. There are a few exceptions, however, which include the following:
- Genuinely believing that the former spouse is dead
- The former spouse has been missing for at least five years before the second marriage took place.
If the so-called bigamist genuinely believed his or her former spouse to be dead, or the former spouse had been missing for five or more years, the re-marriage is considered valid and bigamy did not take place.
Victims of Bigamous Marriages Can Pursue Financial Damages in Family Court
While criminal charges are rarely filed against the bigamist, there can be serious civil ramifications for them, which can be pursued in family court by their “second” spouse. If you have been tricked by your spouse into marrying while he or she had an existing marriage, you can file for financial damages during the annulment process. These damages can only be recovered in family court, not in a small claims suit.
Division of Property and Spousal Support for Putative Spouses
If you, as a wife or husband, married your bigamous spouse in good faith, believing that they were not married already, you are deemed a putative spouse. As a putative husband or wife, you have the right to seek half of all property that was acquired during the marriage, even though the marriage was never valid in the first place. In addition, you can request spousal support, which the court has the right to grant even though the marriage was invalid from the beginning.
A Family Law Attorney Can Help You Today
Bigamous marriages must be annulled immediately, and as an unknowing putative spouse, you have the right to pursue damages, property, and spousal support. To act now, call dedicated family attorneys in Tampa, FL today and schedule a consultation to find out how they can help.
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