So suppose I wanted to commit bigamy*

Let’s say that I got married to husband #1 in, oh, Tennessee.

Let’s say that later on down the road, I’m living in, oh, California with my spouse, and I go nuts and decide I want a second husband. I find a willing party and we head on down to the courthouse, and we apply for the marriage license.

Could I actually get away with this? Is there some big database of married people out there that gets checked before a marriage license is issued? (I don’t remember any kind of checks on Mr. Panda and me before we got hitched years ago.)

If not – let’s say the JOP performs the ceremony. I know the marriage isn’t valid, of course – but how long would it be before I eventually got busted? (Assume I’m not stupid enough to file taxes with the 2nd husband and I don’t go changing my name or publicizing it or anything.)

Just curious!

*No, I’m not thinking of taking a second husband (one is enough, thanks) – and I’ve never lived in TN or CA, I just pulled those out of thin air.

No, there is no central national registry of all married people. You would probably get busted, if ever, when some bright-eyed bureaucrat notices a problem with your or one of your spouses’ income tax returns. Or when one spouse or the other gets suspicious and starts digging. Some bigamous marriages aren’t discovered until after the death of the “shared” spouse when his (and it’s usually a guy) estate goes to probate.

Bigamy is obviously against the law. Don’t do it.

Umm – I covered the tax part already. Also the part that I had no intention of doing it …

What information is on a marriage license? Or what info do you have to give to get one?

All I have is my folks marriage license from the 50s, so I reckon it’s changed since then :slight_smile:

But taking the OP question, would it be more probable if you got married twice in one state? Seems to me if there is no social security number anywhere on the application or license it’d be hard to trace as so many people have the same name. Plus then you got a woman who could marry take her husband’s last name, then pass that off as her maiden name and get remarried bigamously again and again.

They’ll ask you if you’ve ever been married before and, if you say “yes”, they’ll ask you to produce evidence that your first marriage has been ended by death, divorce, etc. So, to get away with this, you’d have to lie.

But, yes, if you’re willing to lie, you will probably get away with this at least in the short term and possibly for quite a while. In some instances, as pointed out above, the fact of bigamy does not emerge until after the death of the bigamist; presumably in some instances it never emerges.

Historically, the challenge with marriage registration was to ensure that the state could identify and register all; the marriages that existed. The problem was not weeding out bogus marriages, but identifying and registering all the real marriages. Hence the emphasis has never been to approach people with suspicion, on the assumption that they are likely to be lying in an attempt to commit a crime.

Or, to put it another way, the registration of marriages is not a law enforcement activity.

I think a large part of whether the bigamy was detected quickly would boil down to whether it was marriage fraud among the participants. If Alix and Sam get married, and then later one of them meets Jo, is one of them marrying Jo without the other knowing anything, or were all three sitting around together and Alix and Sam decide that their marriage would not be complete without Jo?

If the three participants are fine with the multiple marriage, the illegality would be harder to detect because there would be no jilted spouses eager to turn in their cheatin’ husband or wife. It would probably be the tax department that would flag irregularities, assuming that all three were going to try to claim married status in the same marriage.

If the three spouses were careful to claim a legal marriage of only two people, I see nothing that would be irregular about them having what would be in the eyes of the law a long-term boarder. :slight_smile: Of course, the third member of the marriage would not have the legal status of the other two.

Did I read somewhere that some place in Canada or the US was going to make it that roommates were de-facto common-law spouses after a certain time unless they declared specifically that they weren’t, or is that something I severely misremember?

This is a little light on details because I probably shouldn’t be blabbing about it it all, but I know someone personally who got remarried in the same state after, um, forgetting to divorce their old spouse and so far (about a decade since the second marriage) has had no problems whatsoever.

I suspect this particular situation (amicable separation, never bothered to get divorced) happens more than you’d think.

I’ve brought this question up before, but: Alice, a transsexual woman legally recognized as female by the state of Illinois, marries Bob in Illinois. For reasons best known to herself, she later lights out to Kansas, which does not recognize legal change of gender. Being legally male in Kansas, she proceeds to marry Joyce.

Since neither Illinois nor Kansas has same-sex marriage, and Illinois considers her female but Kansas considers her male, Illinois recognizes her marriage to Bob but not to Joyce, and Kansas recognizes her marriage to Joyce, but not to Bob.

So she has been legally married and not divorced twice, but each state does not recognize the marriage in the other state. Assuming she stays out of any states that do recognize same-sex marriage, has she committed bigamy or not?

If PandaBear continues on her wicked path and exacerbates the situation a few more times, does she become a trigamist and then a quadrogamist, or does it remain bigamy regardless of iteration?

It’s always bigamy.

From a legal point of view, the second marriage celebration doesn not result in a marriage. Jack, already married to Jane, has tried to marry Joan, but he hasnt actually succeeded - i.e. Joan is not his wife. Being a party to the first marriage, he has attempted to enter into a second marriage, but the attempt has not succeeded. But going through the marriage ceremony with Joan, even though it has acheived nothing so far as getting married is concerned, is nevertheless a crime.

Fine. Now Jack, whose energy is inexhaustible, goes through a third marriage ceremony with June. Jack is still only a party to one marriage, since the ceremony he celebrated with Joan has not resulted in a marriage. If he could accomplish the marriage he is attempting with June it would, therefore, be his second marriage, not his third. Hence, bigamy.

You remember somewhat correctly, Sunspace, and its right here at home. In Ontario people on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (welfare) have to fill out a questionnaire about the nature of the relationship if they reside with an adult who isn’t a close family member, like parent, grandparent, child or sibling. This is required after 3 months, which makes a common law relationship happen very quickly if it is determined that there is a “marriage-like” nature to the relationship. This is regardless of the sex of the “adult with whom you are living”.
Fact Sheet about Eligable Spouse


These are for the ODSP; the Ontario Works is the same or similar. In 2005 I collected Ontario Works for two months between my maternity benefits and savings running out, and getting another job. My student tennant moved back home for the summer and I got off welfare about 3 weeks before I would have had to submit to the questionnaire to determine if I was in a common law relationship with my airheaded 19 year old student. (I wasn’t. I also wasn’t posting in those days or I would have been posting about her in the PIT)

I think if a person is willing to commit bigamy, he/she’s probably not above lying to the licensing registrar.

The crux of the matter is that somebody has to challenge the bigamous marriage. If no one ever does, the bigamist gets away with it. If no one notices until the deceased’s estate is divided, that’s when the legality of a marriage is adjudicated.

So if you have no estate to speak of, your bigamy may never be discovered, even after your death.

If all parties are willing, it’s hard to prove a crime simply by residing with two other people you consider yourself married to.

The crimes getting noticed if you apply for spousal benefits for someone who isn’t your spouse on your tax return.

If you never apply for benefits or try to file a two spouse tax return, you’ll never get caught. It’s actually arguable whether or not a crime is commited. It’s even less arguable if you don’t actually go to a JOP and file a marriage license with the second spouse. Have a ceremony but don’t file for a license and you really didn’t commit a crime. There are currently no enforced laws that prevent you from sharing your roof/life with two other people in a commited romantic relationship. Legally, the only downside is that one of the three will be the “odd man out” in the benefits department. And in some states its more clear who that would be than in others.

Bigamy laws are only enforced to the point of jail time when it’s done as a form of fraud. - taking multiple wives in multiple states where each spouse doesn’t know about the others. When one finds out, there’s bigger issues than the morality of multiple wives…its the fraud that the courts come down on.

In the case of Utah, bigamy is openly practiced in some communities. The law can’t really do anything about it. The legal system does something about it if it involves underage “brides” and the law finds out. But that’s a different crime altogether.

For what it matters the OP is actually talking about Biandry. Bigamy is specifically two wives. I know a lot of people who are “Poly” either polygamists or polyandrists. By a lot, I know of three bigamist households and one polyandrist household among my friends.

Because I know people will ask, the bigamist households are one straight man and two bi women and the polyandrist household is a straight man, a straight woman and two bi men.

Yes, the “–andry” words refer to multiple husbands, but no, the “–gamy” words refer to spouses of any gender. If you want to specify multiple wives, you need words with “–gyny”, e.g., “polygyny”, which means marriage to multiple wives.

(The “andry”, “gamy” and “gyny” come from Greek words meaning “man”, “marriage” and “woman”, respectively).

That spouse in the house business is for the purpose of calculating what a person’s true income and expenses are when determining whether a person should be eligible for social benefits. It is entirely unrelated to family law (e.g. spousal support, custody, property etc.).

Interestingly, although bigamy is prohibited in Ontario, we have family law statutes that deal with bigamous relationships that fall apart (e.g. if a person with several legal spouse in another country somehow slips through the immigration filter and ends up here, where the marriages fall apart and everyone starts suing everyone for everything).

It looks like Ontario asks these questions so that they can determine whether or not the roommate is truly a third party or whether or not they ought to be grouped together with you for determination of welfare benefits.

E.g. if Joe makes 100k a year, and Bill happens to be an old college buddy that shares an apartment with Joe in Toronto, and Bill ends up unemployed or disabled, should Joe be required to fork over part of his income to support Bill before Bill can have recourse to welfare? I think that is the question they are concerned with. If they are just casual friends who happen to live together, they are separarate individuals who independently qualify or do not qualify for benefits, while a married couple are expected to support each other and one shouldn’t collect welfare if the other makes enough to support the family.

Think about the fact that my next-door neighbor can go on welfare regardless of how much I make, even though we might be friends or even BFF - we owe no legal duties to support each other that are greater than any two random unrelated people. Now imagine the situation if the facts are the same, but we share a residence. How is that so different that a legal duty to support the friend is now due while before there was none?

I didn’t see anything there that says that the policies described therein are sufficent to create a common law marriage, especially not a common law gay marriage.

On a related note, last month I fielded a question from a couple of Americans from Minnesota who were married in Ontario, Canada, but now want to get divorced and mary other people. Since their marriage is not recognized in Minnesota, they can not get divorced in Minnesota. Since Ontario divorce has a one year residency requirement for at least one of the parties, and since neither of them is able to move here for a year, they are stuck being married to each other unless they can find some other juristiction that does not have a residency requirement. That means that at the moment, same sex partners are held to their marriage vows more than opposite sex partners.