If you surveyed the average person, they would be aghast at the idea of having more than one spouse at a time. For some cultures and areas of the country, having multiple spouses currently makes perfect sense. These two ways of being married simultaneously to more than one spouse are often misunderstood, so read on to find out more.
Both are Illegal
Regardless of what you might have seen on reality shows like Sister Wives and the like, both bigamy and polygamy are not sanctioned in any state in the US. Note that polygamy is not legal in Utah and has not been since 1857.
Know the Differences
When a party fails to obtain a legal divorce and marries again, it's often done for reasons of deception. With all cases of bigamy, any marriages after the first is not a valid marriage without a divorce. In most cases, the second "spouse" has no knowledge of the first and legal spouse. Often, this results in heartbreak in the event of a death when the illegal spouse has no rights to the estate. While bigamy is illegal, the ramifications are far from serious. In most states, bigamy is only a misdemeanor.
Polygamous marriages, however, are not usually performed legally in the first place. With no marriage being legal, the relationship is viewed as domestic partnerships rather than marriages. Some polygamists marry one spouse legally and the rest are "joined" to the other with their own religious ceremonies. People who practice polygamy usually do so with the full consent and knowledge of all parties.
When Polygamists Part Ways
Since the additional marriages of a polygamist is not legal, it is not necessary to seek a divorce. Even if the relationship fits all other parameters of a common law marriage, which does require a divorce, common law divorces are only needed when the couple could (if they wished) be legally married in that state. The other issue raised by these unsanctioned relationships is children. The law does everything possible to protect minor children, whether the parties were legally married or not. When a party is no longer living together, even if they never lived together, child support can be ordered.
If you are involved in one of the above relationships, speak to a family law attorney immediately to retain your rights, protect your financial interests, and set up financial support for your child.
For more information, you will want to contact a law firm such as the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C..