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.