Bigamy: Could it Happen to You?

According to a local TV news show, a man in neighboring Fort Lauderdale was arrested on charges of bigamy a few days ago .

You’re probably thinking: how could such a thing happen, today, in sophisticated South Florida?

Disclaimer: The rest of this post is not commentary on the above case in the news, about which I have no other information. Nor, obviously should this post be taken as excusing or defending bigamy.

Having said all of that, I get more than an occasional call from a long (5, 10, even 20 years) separated spouse who reports that they never got the final word on their divorce. Sometimes they say their spouse told them they would “take care of things”. Sometimes they say they (or their spouse) hired a lawyer to take care of it. Yada, yada.

If you’ve never been divorced before, the above scenarios may sound plausible. But they’re probably not!

Divorce is not normally a single, unilateral event. It’s a regimented process, one which usually requires participation by both spouses.

At the very least, the spouse who filed for the divorce should receive a final judgment, marking the end of the process. Here, in Florida, there is always at least one final hearing held (although some other states may waive this requirement under certain circumstances). Also, here in Florida, the final judgment is recorded.

So, if you were divorced, you should have gotten (or be able to get) proof positive of that fact. (Which is not to say that it may not be a bit of a nuisance. )

Of course, the reason people call a lawyer about the above dilemma is that they want to marry their new love – now.

There may be other folks out there in the exact same situation as those callers, who, for whatever reason, don’t call a lawyer. Who figure, whether optimistically or naively, that they are … must be divorced. Their spouse was taking care of it. They believe they hired a lawyer who took care of it. It’s been so darn long. Whatever …

Guess what? If they remarried, whether they know it or not, they may be bigamists.

Don’t drop the ball on your divorce.