What is Bigamy?

Bigamy is when a person who was previously married and never obtained a divorce marries another person. Bigamy is a felony in the state of South Carolina. If a person is found guilty of bigamy they can be sentenced anywhere from six months to five years in prison or serve six months in prison and pay a fine of at least $500.00.

When most people think of bigamy they likely think of men belonging to an extremist religious sect having more than one wife at a time with the big happy family living under the same roof. However, our encounters with bigamists are completely the opposite. There are average Joes and Sallies who without even knowing are committing the crime of bigamy as set out in § 16-15-10 SC Code of Laws.

Any person who is married and without first being widowed, obtaining a divorce or annulment who then marries another person, is a bigamist. Simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, some people think that if they’re separated a number of years from their spouse they are no longer married. This holds true if, and only if, the spouse has disappeared for seven years and the remaining spouse does not know whether or not they’re still alive. Such missing persons can legally be declared dead. If a person’s spouse has been sentenced to life imprisonment, he or she may remarry without first obtaining an annulment or divorce. Others marry another individual in a different state after only being told the spouse got a divorce, later to find another kind of legal action was taken such as a legal separation or for a child support action. If a person is common law married in SC, they must obtain a divorce the same as any other married couple in order to dissolve the union. The common law spouse would have a right to press charges if the spouse remarries without first obtaining a divorce.


Disclaimer:  Information contained in this column is meant to be of general information on frequently asked questions concerning disability, elder law, estate planning and probate law, and does not contain specific legal advice to a client.  No attorney-client relationship is created by reading this column.

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