Is Polygamy Legal in Virginia?
Thanks to reality television shows that show some people’s lives with multiple “spouses,” there has been an increase in people wanting to know whether polygamy or bigamy are legal or not. The term polygamy is most often used, and it refers to having multiple spouses, or the practice of having more than one spouse at the same time. Bigamy is the act of marrying more than one person. To engage in polygamy, you would have to go through the act of bigamy. No matter which term you are referring to, both are illegal in the United States, including in Virginia.
Punishment for Bigamy in Virginia
Bigamy is a crime in Virginia, and therefore can carry the risk of criminal charges. It is something you should take seriously. Depending on the circumstances, bigamy can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Virginia law states that if anyone who is married to someone who is currently alive proceeds to marry another person, he or she is guilty of a class 4 felony. Violation of this law can be prosecuted in either the county or city where the subsequent marriage(s) took place, or where the parties in the subsequent marriage were cohabitating.
A common defense for bigamy is the claim the parties thought the divorce in the prior marriage was already finalized. Unfortunately, you need to list the date your divorce was final when you apply for your new marriage license. This makes it hard to use the excuse you didn’t know it wasn’t finalized as you would’ve needed the paperwork. This is one of the reasons it’s important to retain a Virginia divorce attorney, as he or she will ensure your divorce is finalized and let you know when you can legally marry again.
Real Life Bigamy Cases
You might be thinking that polygamy only happens in select parts of the country, but it can happen anywhere, including Virginia. In 2015, Keyshana Rae Childress was arrested for bigamy after she married her new partner while still being legally married to someone else. In fact, she took her three children from her original marriage out of their Florida home, moving them to Virginia with her new partner. She was charged with multiple crimes, including a felony count of bigamy.
Gun N’ Roses guitarist Slash had his name in the media as it seems his wife, Ferrar Hudson, was still married to her first husband due to an error with filing the finalization papers. The couple found out years later when they tried to apply for dual citizenship for their son. A judge went ahead and finalized her earlier divorce and even made it retroactive. However, when Ferrar and Slash split up, he claimed he owed her nothing, despite 18 years of marriage, because he claims she was a bigamist and their marriage was never legal.
Contact a Virginia Divorce Attorney
If you have questions about bigamy charges or you believe your spouse is still legally married to someone else, it’s important you understand what legal remedies you have and how the courts will handle a voided marriage. Contact the team of knowledgeable Virginia divorce attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC today to schedule an initial consultation.