When you’ve decided your marriage is over and have mentally moved on, coming to terms with the fact that you still have to put a legal end to the relationship can be a tough hurdle for some. It can be tiring, stressful, depressing, and angering all at the same time. Few people look forward to the process and just wish they could skip to the end without any drama – and some do.
Remarrying before you legally divorce happens in North Carolina more often than you might think. Unfortunately, this can pose problems for everyone involved.
- A Davidson man was discovered to have married another woman earlier this year before filing for divorce from his first wife.
- An Onslow County man got away with hiding his marriage to another woman for four months but was caught earlier this year.
- A woman in Onslow County committed bigamy for 7 years, having been caught this past May after her second “husband” turned her in.
As the spouse who “remarries,” you are committing a felony. You are also committing adultery and abandonment – fault criteria that offers grounds for divorce from bed and board in North Carolina (legal separation). As the “new” spouse, your marriage is invalidated, which means you have no legal rights to any marital property because you’re not legally married. You may also have been placed into a position of committing fraud if you were placed on a health insurance plan as a spouse or filed taxes as married and benefitted from the filing status.
What leads to bigamy?
In some cases it can be as simple as what’s stated above. The spouse doesn’t want to deal with going through a divorce and just wants to move on and forget about it. Other times it can stem from a timing issue. Many parties, against their divorce attorney’s advice, will begin a relationship prior to their divorce being finalized. Maybe their new partner knows about their divorce, and maybe he or she doesn’t.
When those relationships lead to discussions of marriage, and even planning a wedding, it complicates things for the individual who is still married and feels unable to stop the train from barreling down the tracks. Anything can happen when you’re dealing with divorce.
A common issue that arises is planning a wedding around a final hearing date. You’re under the belief that you’ll be legally free by the time you’re wedding day arrives, but the hearing has been pushed back or your settlement has fallen through. You can’t bare disappointing your intended new husband or wife, or the financial loss of rescheduling a wedding – or canceling entirely.
The decision to go ahead with it will have consequences.
What happens if someone commits bigamy?
You may go to jail for committing a crime. This may present custody and visitation issues if you have children. You may lose your job, and therefore your income, making it more difficult to meet financial obligations to your spouse and/or children, should you be ordered to pay child support or alimony. Failure to meet those obligations is likely to land you back in court.
Your new “spouse” will find out and it may end your relationship. The truth has a way of surfacing. Sometimes it may take a while, but eventually someone may realize what’s happened and you’re romantic partner may not be overly understanding. He or she will have no legal ties to your relationship, and may even seek legal help to detangle from you financially before making a graceful exit.
Your legal spouse may have a claim to marital property acquired between you and your new “spouse.” You are still legally married and as such, you have been using marital funds and property to support a new “spouse.” Maybe you’ve even bought property together. You’ve gained or squandered marital assets that your legal spouse may have a right to. A court will take this into consideration when deciding property division, assuming you eventually do divorce.
The only time it’s okay to remarry without obtaining a divorce
These situations are fairly limited, but won’t land you in the trouble you encounter in the above circumstances. Under North Carolina law, a husband or wife may lawfully remarry without having first obtained a divorce when:
- Your spouse has been continuously absent for a period of seven years and you have no knowledge that he or she is still alive.
- A court has declared your former marriage to be void.
Divorce is hard and unpleasant, but when your marriage is over, it’s the only legal way to move on. The understanding attorneys at Charlotte’s Epperson Law Group, PLLC have the skill and endurance to help carry you through the divorce process so that you can begin a new chapter in your life. To schedule your consultation in our Charlotte, Boone or Weddington office, call 704-321-0031 or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.