Getting Away With Bigamy

Defenders of Marriage
Defenders of Marriage (Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

Bigamy is in the news again. A Washington man recently pleaded guilty to bigamy after his first wife discovered the second on Facebook. Every time bigamy hits the headlines, I have an uptick in searches that lead to my blog. People seem to have two main questions:

“How do I get away with bigamy?” and “How do bigamists get caught?”

I really hope these searches are out of curiosity and not a sign of someone making plans.

Here’s the truth – it’s easy to commit bigamy. Many states do not ask for proof of a divorce when you file for a marriage license. This was the case in the state where my husband married, although they were re-evaluating the law. Even requiring proof of the dissolution of the prior marriage is not a fail safe; all one has to do is claim that they have never been married. Records of marriages and divorces are held at the county level. It is not possible to search all of the databases under the current system.

It may be easy to commit bigamy, but it is getting harder and harder to get away with it as our lives become more documented online and through electronic communication. In the Washington case, Facebook suggested to the first wife that she may know the second. In my case, I caught my husband through an email (If You’re Going to Get Married Illegally, Be Sure to Pay the Band).

Another side effect of bigamy in the news is the increase in jokes about Mormons, Utah, and polygamy. I’d like to clarify a few points while on the subject. Do some Mormons believe in and practice polygamy? Yes. Is it the norm? No. Most Mormons do not live in households with multiple wives and do not condone the practice. It’s simply that these households get more media attention because it is different and therefore interesting. Furthermore, the type of bigamy committed by my husband and the man in Washington is in no way related to a sister wife sort of situation. These men committed adultery and carried it through to a horrific end. This was not consensual. This was fraud and deception.

I get it. Bigamy can be funny. Goodness knows, I’ve made my share of jokes to laugh through the tears (Dear Ms. Manners: The Etiquette of Bigamy). But while you’re laughing, remember that lives have been torn apart, usually in a public and embarrassing way.

In the Washington case, the man received a year’s probation. My husband didn’t even get that. I’m depending upon karma to carry out his sentence.

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29 thoughts on “Getting Away With Bigamy

  1. It took me a long time to truly believe that “what comes around, goes around” or “you’ll get yours”. The thing is, over the years, I’ve seen it first hand and more than once.

    I now fully believe that your ex will get his.

    1. I think so too mainly because if you go through life treating people poorly, you will not be treated well yourself. I have faith in karma which is why I chosen not to reveal his identity. Karma sees right through aliases:)

  2. I jay don’t understand the need or want for more than one wife. Seriously? This is beyond what I can comprehend and I’m a smart cookie. Now I understand not wanting to be married, leaving and never asking for a divorce because you are chicken. But why marry someone else especially when living common law is now the norm?

    1. I know. It’s nuts. I can’t speak for other cases, but in mine, it appears as though the marriage needed to be “legal” so that he could obtain a visa to go to Uganda and so that he could take out insurance on her. In other words, the marriage was all part of the con. He never thought he would get caught.

        1. That was her suspicion. She told me “Thank you for figuring this out. I don’t think I would have made it out of Uganda alive.” And then she went back to him. I hope she (and any others who have crossed his path) are okay.

  3. I can’t fathom someone wanting to be married twice at the same time. Serial marriage takes enough of a toll! But maybe if I had married them all at the same time I could have come to my senses earlier.

  4. As an LDS member (aka Mormon) I can tell you that we do not condone polygamy of any kind. In fact, they will be ex communicated if they do. The people that say they’re Mormon and are polygamist are not actually members of the LDS church.
    That being said, I can’t believe that so many people try to get away with this. My husband just left me, and its been a roller coaster ride. People can’t handle being married to one person, what makes them think adding another one to the mix is a good idea?? Gee Wiz!

    1. Thank you for sharing. It is such a roller coaster ride. I know in my case, my husband wasn’t thinking…I have the feeling that’s probably the case in many situations like this! I hope your roller coaster evens out for you and give you a nice, gentle upward climb! 🙂

    2. Well polygamy is no longer part of the LDS religion because they obey the law of the land. It is still part of the religion a man may be sealed to multiple wives for eternity, while a woman would have to ask the highest level of church leadership to unseal her first marriage if she wanted to get sealed to another.

  5. I know someone who is a bigamist. He has a wife in Seattle and one here in Maryland. Can he go to jail for that and how long???

    1. It is illegal. In fact, it is a felony in many states. The case would be in the state where the second marriage occurred. If the second wife knows of the first, she can also be prosecuted. Jail time is usually a possibility on the books, but from what I know, rarely occurs. The fact of the matter is that cash-strapped states don’t pursue bigamy too aggressively. In my case, there is a warrant for my ex, but that’s all.

  6. my nieces husband is a bigamist. He married his wife best friend before the divorce was finalized. His new wife being pregnant had complications and passed away. He has now received 500,000 accidental life insurance on wife # 2. Is this legal? He is still not legally divorced.

    1. Wow. Not sure on the legality aspect. My ex was told he would have to annul the second marriage (don’t know if he did) which leads me to believe that it had some legally binding aspect. Wouldn’t it be crazy if something happened to him and the money passed to wife #1?

  7. There are other reasons to commit bigamy. I have not done so but me and my “husband” have wanted to be married for a very long time and have thought about it a million times.. We have been together 27 yrs. Living together 22. I had been separated 3 yrs. when I met him. My ex was very abusive and would not give me a divorce. It took me two years after I left him to finally leave me alone. After that I never wanted to see him again and stir things up. I am still deathly afraid of him. My “husband” and I love each other vary much and just wish we could really get married.

  8. Wow! If I understand correctly…….The husband living with two wives and they agree to a 3rd can all go to jail? If a wife passes away, the husband gets the life insurance so, which wife legally gets a man’s pension, social security, house etc upon his death? Does the government offer assistance to the three wives with kids if passes?

    1. I have no idea! I do know in my case, my ex’s other marriage wasn’t legal (according to the district attorney), but they were still supposed to get it annulled (not sure if this ever happened). I do know that, until I remarried, I was entitled to his SSN death benefits if he happened to keel over. I’m still amazed at how easy it is to commit bigamy since there is no easy way to check records. They basically take your word for it that you’re single.

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