What is Bigamous Marriage?

Sarah Rose
Family Law and Divorce Solicitor

It is important to understand that if you get married whilst you are still legally married to someone else, you could be committing bigamy by the laws of England and Wales.

Apart from causing complications within any divorce or separation, bigamy can be a criminal offence. So, if there is any doubt about whether either of you are still married, check the position and get legal advice immediately.

Whilst you may be caught up in a new romance and looking to start the next chapter in your life, you must make sure that your first chapter has been closed legally. It can be even more complicated if you were married abroad or had a religious marriage, as the processes for marriage and divorce are not always as clear and records aren’t stored in the same way either.

Parveen vs Hussain – a Bigamous Marriage?

In the recent case of Hussain v Parveen, it is reported that Ms Parveen married her first husband, Mr Aslam, on 1st November 2000 in Pakistan. After a few weeks, Mr Aslam moved back to the UK whilst Ms Parveen stayed in Pakistan.

Mr Aslam could not afford to bring Ms Parveen to the UK and was given an ultimatum by her family - either bring Ms Parveen to the UK or divorce her.

On 10th February 2008, Mr Aslam pronounced Talaq (Islamic Divorce) in the UK. The Talaq was presented to a mosque and converted into a divorce certificate.

The divorce certificate was then presented to the local Union Council in Pakistan, where the religious divorce was obtained. 

Ms Parveen then married Mr Hussain on 19th December 2008 and moved to the UK in March 2009. After some time the marriage broke down and Mr Hussain claimed that Ms Parveen’s marriage to him was bigamous, and he started nullity proceedings to establish that the marriage was void.

The Court ruled that the divorce from Ms Parveen’s first marriage was not recognised as a legally effective divorce and it had not ended the first marriage.  As a result, the second marriage was declared not valid. 

This case shows that some situations are not always straightforward and that despite the best efforts and intentions of those involved, legal complications can still arise.

No Decree Absolute, No Divorce

The impact of entering a second marriage when the first hasn’t ended is wide-ranging and there are many different consequences, apart from potential criminal charges.

In England and Wales, unless you have a Decree Absolute, which officially brings your marriage to an end, you are still legally married.

It’s not enough to be separated from your husband or wife, no matter how long you’ve been separated, nor is it enough to have a Decree Nisi - which is only a provisional decree and does not end your marriage. 

Judicial Separation

Judicial separation, also known as legal separation may also cause confusion. Even though this is a formal separation processed through the Court, your marriage is not dissolved and neither of you is free to remarry, unless and until you get a divorce. 

Get Legal Advice if You’re Not Sure

Each of my clients has very different situations and circumstances and so every case is different. No matter what your circumstances, you need to understand the different processes and procedures as well as the financial implications of your marriage, divorce and any later marriages.

We can talk you through your legal situation clearly and quickly. Just get in touch today.

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