Some Basics on Bigamy
A married individual with a living legal spouse, who knowingly and intentionally marries another person, commits bigamy. While many individuals find such an act to be morally inexcusable, bigamy can result in a criminal conviction. Intentional bigamy is a criminal offense in all the states of the United States of America.
People are rarely convicted of Bigamy in Florida because most “bigamists” don’t marry more than one spouse on purpose. Most people who marry more than one spouse usually find their situations falling within the law’s exceptions. Nonetheless, those convicted of bigamy in Florida usually suffer severe consequences.
Florida Statutes 826.01 and 826.02
According to Florida statute 826.01, whoever, having a wife or husband living, marries another individual, shall be found guilty of a third-degree felony (bigamy). However, there are exceptions to the law, and those exceptions are outlined under Florida statute 862.02.
According to Florida statute 862.02, a legally married person is innocent of bigamy if they marry another person because;
- they reasonably believe their prior husband or wife is dead.
- their previous husband or wife deserted them for three or more consecutive years, and they did not have any way of knowing they were alive.
- their bonds of matrimony have been dissolved.
- they believe they are lawfully qualified to remarry.
- a court (either foreign or domestic) entered an invalid judgment claiming to terminate or annul their previous marriage, and the person didn’t know the ruling was invalid.
An act of bigamy that doesn’t fall within the above exceptions carries grave consequences. If convicted of bigamy, you could spend up to five years in prison. Guilty individuals also risk paying fines of up to $5,000.
You must note that not only is it a crime for a person who is still legally married to a living spouse to intentionally and knowingly remarry, but it is also a crime for an individual to marry another living person’s husband or wife deliberately. According to Florida law, such a crime is also a third-degree felony.
Bigamy and Divorce
When you marry another person while still legally married to a living spouse, or when you marry a person legally married to another living spouse, your marriage is generally null and void. Therefore, to end such a marriage, you generally don’t need to go through the divorce process since your marriage was never legally valid. However, matters like child support, child custody, and division of assets might need to be brought before a judge even if the marriage is void.
Defenses to Bigamy
When charged with bigamy, the exceptions stated under Florida statute 862.02 are mostly the same as the defenses your attorney is allowed to use to defend you. Suppose you married another person because your prior husband or wife had voluntarily deserted you for three or more consecutive years, and you had no way of knowing they were still alive. In that case, you and your attorney could use that as a defense. If you use such a defense, you’d probably have to prove that you and your prior spouse never communicated during those years. Proving that would most likely convince the court to excuse you for believing that your previous spouse was dead and getting married to another person.
Contact a Qualified Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you stand accused of bigamy in Florida, you must reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Fort Lauderdale criminal attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A., today to receive help with your case.