There are any number of ways bigamists get caught (when they do get caught).
Let’s talk through some of the most common ways.
How Do Bigamists Get Caught? (Discussion)
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Direct Reports To The Government By Either Spouse
The primary way bigamists get caught is by getting reported by one of two people: the first spouse, or the second spouse.
The first spouse may find out in any number of ways, but the reasons they might call the police to make a report include:
- protection (to protect assets from the invalid spouse that would otherwise belong to them)
- desire to return to happily married state (get rid of the other spouse)
The second spouse may call the police to make the report because:
- they feel angry or betrayed
- they want to hurt the person who lied
- they want to protect themselves from aiding and abetting some other illegality (like immigration fraud)
- its the right thing to do
- protect their own assets from the already married spouse
it is common for one of the spouses to discover the existence of the second family through:
- unprotected communications (text messages, emails, mail)
- social media
- government documents (names of unfamiliar people popping up)
- well-meaning friends or family
- the other spouse or children reporting it to them
Regardless of how they found out, the authorities usually get the initial report from one of the spouses.
Bigamy As Part Of Another Illegality
When people use bigamy as a way to commit some other crime, the authorities often receive reports about the bigamy.
People use marriage to obtain citizenship, money, and property, or to otherwise obtain benefits, relying on the assumption that no one will discover a previous valid marriage (or marriages).
When a big enough wrong is done, angry family members or friends may contact law enforcement to report the alleged crime.
Other involved parties such as banks, government agencies, and businesses may also make the initial report.
When parties marry, there is no central database in the United States that compiles marriages/divorces.
The states do not do a search of other states.
But they do keep records of who has applied for benefits, and generally allow only one spouse to hold the position of certain benefits.
A spouse who applies for spousal social security benefits may discover that her application gets rejected.
A spouse wanting to get added to health insurance might not be able to.
A credit check while purchasing a home might reveal a jointly held mortgage.
As asset search during a mortgage loan review might review jointly owned properties.
A review of bank accounts might reveal unfamiliar names listed as beneficiaries.
Old advance directives might contain unfamiliar names worth investigating.
Given the number of accounts and agencies that compile and connect people’s information, it is a wonder that anyone can actually commit bigamy anymore for any length of time without being discovered.
What To Do If You Are Committing Bigamy (Intentionally or Accidentally)?
Great question, and there are any number of ways to deal with the situation.
There’s active strategies, and passive strategies.
Depending on the circumstances, it might make sense to lay low and hope that no one finds out.
In other circumstances, being proactive, telling everyone, obtaining a divorce and re-marrying the second spouse, might carry the day.
In any case, it makes sense to confer with an attorney who is experienced in handling family law cases (divorce and annulments) as well as criminal defense cases.
The situation may be more complex than simply annulling the second marriage to clean up the first one, especially if children or significant property interests are involved.
Having the criminal defense side of things can also help the client avoid criminal repercussions for holding himself out as married to obtain benefits only lawfully married people can obtain.
Want to learn more about your criminal justice system?
Browse our free legal library guides for more information.
You might also like:
- Accidental Bigamy Information and Options
- How to Prove Bigamy in Texas
- Why is Bigamy Illegal?
- Bigamy vs Polygamy: What’s the Difference?
- Bigamy vs Digamy: What’s the Difference?
- How Do Bigamists Get Caught?
- Is Bigamy Grounds for Annulment?
- Can You Go To Jail For Bigamy?
- Who Can File Bigamy Charges?
- How to Report Bigamy