Marriage in Australia is currently defined in the Marriage Act 1961 as the union of man and woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Bigamy is defined in Section 94 of the Marriage Act 1961 and provides that a person who is married must not go through a form of ceremony of marriage with any other person. This includes marriage ceremonies in foreign countries.
Is bigamy a criminal offence?
Yes, bigamy is a criminal offence punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.
The only defence to a criminal charge of bigamy is that at the time of the offence the accused believed that his or her spouse was deceased and that the length of absence provided reasonable grounds for the believe that the spouse was deceased.
John marries Leslie. John then separates from Leslie but is not divorced from Leslie by way of Divorce Order. John then marries Sally whilst still legally married to Leslie. John has committed a criminal offence.
What if you discover you have committed bigamy?
If you discover that you have committed bigamy you will need to apply for a Decree of Nullity. A Decree of Nullity is a declaration from the Court that there was no legal marriage despite a marriage ceremony taking place and that the marriage is therefore void.
The Court may declare a marriage to be void if:
- At the time of the marriage one party was legally married to another person;
- The parties were non-compliant with the required laws in the country in which they were married;
- One or both of the parties were not of the required legal age to marry;
- The parties are engaged in a prohibited relationship;
- A party did not provide consent to the marriage.
If you discover that your Husband or Wife has committed bigamy you need to determine whether you are the first or second Husband or Wife. If you were the first person married to your spouse then your marriage is legal. If you are the second, your marriage is void.
If you would like to further advice in relation to bigamy please contact Armstrong Legal to arrange a no obligation appointment.